UPDATE: The U.S. Supreme Court Upheld the Constitutionality of ICWA

Brackeen v. Haaland

On June 15, 2023,  theU.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor* of upholding the Indian Child Welfare Act, holding that Congress had the authority to enact the law. The Supreme Court rejected the petitioners’ anticommandeering challenges to ICWA’s “active efforts” requirement to keep the Indian family together, placement preferences, and recordkeeping provisions. The Supreme Court did not rule on any merits regarding the petitioners’ “equal protection challenge to ICWA’s placement preferences and a nondelegation challenge to the provision allowing tribes to alter the placement preferences” as neither the individual petitioners nor the State of Texas had standing to raise them. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ judgment regarding Congress’ constitutional authority to enact ICWA, reversed on the anticommandeering claims, and vacated the Court of Appeals’ judgment on the equal protection and nondelegation claims and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

*Justice Barrett wrote for the majority. Justice Gorsuch filed a concurring opinion, in which Justices Sotomayor and Jackson joined as to Parts I and III. Justice Kavanaugh filed a concurring opinion. Justices Thomas and Alito filed separate dissents.

Read NACC and coalition partners’ press release about the ruling.

5th Circuit

On April 6, 2021, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Congress had the authority to enact ICWA.   The en banc court held  that the “Indian Child” designation and, the portions of a Final Rule issued in 2016 by the Department of the Interior that implement it, were based on a political classification; thus, they did not violate the Equal Protection Clause.  The court also held that “§ 1915(c) does not violate the nondelegation doctrine because the provision is either a valid prospective incorporation by Congress of another sovereign’s law or a delegation of regulatory authority.” Additionally, the court found that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) “acted within its statutory authority in issuing binding regulations” and “did not violate the APA when it changed its position on the scope of its authority because the agency provided a reasonable explanation for its new stance.”

While the court upheld the constitutionality of several ICWA provisions, it declared that three provisions were unconstitutional under the anti-commandeering doctrine:  active efforts requirement in § 1912(d); qualified expert witness requirement in § 1912 (e) and (f); and placement-record requirement in § 1915(e).  Furthermore, the court ruled that the Final Rule “violated the APA to the extent it implemented these unconstitutional provisions”; thus, these parts of the Final Rule are no longer applicable to the states in the Fifth Circuit (Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi): 25 C.F.R. § 23.132(b) (that good cause to deviate from the placement preferences must be shown by clear and convincing evidence) and 25 C.F.R. § 23.141 (record keeping). A resource to better understand the decision’s impact can be found here.

U.S. Supreme Court Petition for Certiorari

On September 3, 2021, the individual plaintiffs, the State of Texas, the Solicitor General, and intervening tribal nations filed petitions for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. On October 8, 2021, NACC joined with partners in an amicus brief supporting the Indian Child Welfare Act and opposing the attack on Indigenous sovereignty & families. On February 28, 2022, the Supreme Court accepted cert of this case.

U.S. Supreme Court Merits Stage Amicus Brief

On August 18, 2022, NACC, along with thirty children’s rights organizations, filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). At the outset, amici assert that “ICWA establishes minimum federal standards consistent with constitutional requirements applicable to state welfare proceedings that ensure the system protects the well-being of children when state intervention is necessary.” Amici emphasize that the Constitution protects the right to family integrity and requires that children are only removed from their home when they are unsafe. “ICWA protects families from ‘unwarranted’ removals . . . by establishing standards and procedures designed to ensure that Indian children are removed from their parents only when necessary to safeguard them from serious harm, and that families are reunified when possible.” Amici argue that when removals are necessary, ICWA’s placement preferences ensure that Indian children maintain familial relationships, preserve their culture and traditions, and stay connected to their Tribe.

Amici maintain that ICWA is consistent with the best interest analysis that state courts undertake; when making best interest determinations, state courts consider certain factors which “align with ICWA’s fundamental principles: preserving family integrity, prioritizing placement with relatives, and maintaining community and culture.” Furthermore, amici point out that several states, recognizing that ICWA serves the best interest of children, have codified key provisions of ICWA into state law. ICWA provides critical information and support (from tribal advocates and expert witnesses) that state courts may not otherwise have available when making best interest determinations, due to the challenges that state child welfare systems, including the plaintiff State of Texas, face. For these reasons, amici urge the Supreme Court to uphold ICWA. The case is under review by the Supreme Court, and oral arguments are slated for November.

NACC is grateful to the following organizational partners who collaborated on and joined this brief:

1. Alliance for Children’s Rights

2. Barton Child Law and Policy Center, Emory Law School

3. Center for Children & Youth Justice

4. Children’s Law Center

5. Children’s Law Center of California

6. Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, Inc.

7. Children’s Law Center of Minnesota

8. Children’s Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan

9. Children’s Legal Services of San Diego

10. Children’s Permanency Clinic, St. Louis University School of Law

11. Children’s Rights, Inc.

12. Colorado Office of the Child’s Representative

13. East Bay Children’s Law Offices

14. Juvenile Law Center

15. KidsVoice

16. Lawyers For Children

17. Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada Children’s Attorneys Project

18. Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County

19. Legal Counsel for Youth and Children

20. Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services

21. Minnesota Guardian ad Litem

22. National Center for Youth Law

23. New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, Office of the Law Guardian

24. Pegasus

25. Pima County Office of Children’s Counsel

26. Public Counsel

27. Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center

28. Southeast Louisiana Legal Services

29. Virginia Poverty Law Center

30. Youth Law Center

March Policy Updates

Pending Legislation Around the Country would Advance Children’s Right to Counsel

State legislatures in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma are considering legislation to ensure or expand right to counsel for children experiencing the child protection system. Read more about each in our latest Counsel for Kids update.

How do Counsel for Kids Promote Race Equity?

The Counsel for Kids campaign released a new video explaining nine ways providing attorneys for youth helps advance race equity. 

NACC Signs-On in Support of Legislation Supporting Youth and Justice

NACC signed on to legislation to protect sibling relationships, provide emergency SNAP benefits, stabilize foster care, establish a Children’s Interagency Coordinating Council, and end deadly no-knock warrants. NACC also joined the Act 4 Juvenile Justice Coalition’s letters to President Biden and congressional leaders.

February Policy Updates

Call for Public Comment on NACC Draft Policy Framework

NACC seeks input on how it should advance justice for children, parents, and families. NACC invites members in good standing and individuals with lived experience in the child protection system to submit feedback of up to five pages in length (including attachments) to [email protected] no later than February 23, 2023.

NACC is specifically interested in comments related to alignment: (does this framework accurately reflect the values in NACC’s mission and vision statements?) and impact (will these proposed reforms help improve outcomes for children, youth, parents, and families? If not, what should be changed or added?) This draft policy framework has not been adopted by the NACC Board of Directors and should not be construed as representing official policy of the National Association of Counsel for Children.

Children’s Right to Counsel Legislation in Montana, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma

Montana House Bill 37 would require the appointment of legal counsel to any child subject to abuse and neglect court proceedings notwithstanding the appointment of a guardian ad litem. Policy Counsel Natalece Washington offered written and public comments (@9:55) at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on January 10. On January 19, the committee voted 18-1 to approve the bill for consideration by the whole House. A companion bill, Montana Senate Bill 148, would also guarantee legal counsel for children in dependency cases.

Indiana Senate Bill 0485 would require the appointment of legal counsel to a child in certain circumstances depending on their age, placement, and case. The bill would require the court to appoint counsel at the initial hearing and make a finding of whether the child has waived counsel at every hearing. Waiving the right to counsel may only occur after consultation with the attorney, and children under 12 may not waive their right. The bill would establish the Office of the Child Representative with a statewide office and regional offices.

Indiana House Bill 1172 would make a much narrower guarantee of legal counsel for a small subset of children involved in CHINS or TPR cases.

Indiana Senate Bill 0484 would establish a pilot project to study children’s legal representation in six courts for two years.

New Hampshire House Bill 535 would permit the court to appoint counsel for a child in abuse and neglect proceedings where the child’s expressed interests conflict with any recommendation of the guardian ad litem. The House Children and Family Law committee held a public hearing on the bill on January 24, 2023. NACC submitted written comments in support of the bill.

Oklahoma Senate Bill 907 (Companion Bill House Bill 1017), would establish the Family Representation and Advocacy Program to ensure all parents, legal guardians, and Indian custodians and children are appointed counsel who have the training, support, and access to resources to provide uniform and high-quality legal representation.

Amicus News

The Missouri Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case of  Rockett v. Eighmy on February 16, 2023. NACC filed an amicus brief,  arguing against judicial immunity for a judge who unlawfully detained two children involved in a child custody dispute between their parents.

January Policy Updates

Illinois and Montana Legislation to Advance Children’s Right to Counsel

Governor Pritzker signed Illinois Senate Bill 1720 into law on January 9, requiring the Department of Children and Family Services to maximize federal resources to support quality legal representation for children involved in foster care legal proceedings

Montana House Bill 37 would require the appointment of legal counsel to any child subject to abuse and neglect court proceedings notwithstanding the appointment of a guardian  ad litem. The House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on the bill on January 10. NACC Policy Counsel Natalece Washington offered  written and  public comments (@9:55) in support of counsel for kids.

NACC Supports Legislation to Address Racial Disparities and Strengthen Tribal Families

NACC endorsed a bill to clarify that Title II funds can be used by State Advisory Groups to address racial and ethnic disparities in the youth legal system and joined a letter asking the Senate Finance Committee to support the Strengthening Tribal Families Act.

Tribute to Team NACC

2022 marked my fifth anniversary as Executive Director of the National Association of Counsel for Children. I could not be prouder of our team and their persistent, intentional focus on supporting the child welfare legal community and the children, parents, and families you serve. Your practice is their purpose.

NACC’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan re-centered NACC’s core programs to Promote Excellence, Build Community, and Advance Justice, and expanded NACC’s budget and staff, both of which tripled in five years. This expansion was necessary to meet the needs of our still emerging and underserved legal field, as demonstrated by the high demand for NACC’s training programs, webinars, online resources, and technical assistance. The launch of the Counsel for Kids campaign was a landmark development to fully, and finally, achieve access to counsel for children and youth, and the 4th Edition of Child Welfare Law and Practice (the “Red Book”) will similarly drive practice forward with renewed vigor and continue to redefine zealous advocacy.

In 2023, NACC will launch a new website, database, and member resource library. Alongside the 4th Edition Red Book, there will be a new CWLS exam and Red Book Training. NACC will also launch a Race Equity Training Series, Training on Representing Infants and Toddlers, and the Second Edition Children’s Law Office Guidebook. We can’t wait to share these developments with you!

Every day, Team NACC is working to make your practice a little easier, better informed, and recognized as a legal specialty. These efforts are enhanced by partnerships with the NACC Board of Directors, National Advisory Council on Children’s Legal Representation, State Coordinators, Emeritus Board, Red Book editors and contributors, Guardian contributors, training and policy consultants, national and state organizational partners, and numerous webinar and conference faculty.

In this season of gratitude, I want to give a special tribute to the NACC staff, without whom none of this would be possible. Please join me in thanking them for their many contributions to the NACC community.

Justin Black, Communications Assistant

Justin joined NACC in 2020 to share his expertise and talents in digital marketing, honed during his leadership of Redefining Normal. Justin keeps NACC up-to-date on social media and produces great video and graphic content – and he’s a new father, congratulations to Justin and Alexis Black! Thank you, Justin!

Ginger Burton, Certification Administrator and Technical Writer

Ginger joined NACC in 2016 to help support CWLS Certification. Ginger quickly became an indispensable engine behind the scenes, keeping CWLS Certification current, managing applications and recertifications, and administering CLE for NACC’s training programs. Ginger is incredibly meticulous and lends a valuable editing eye across many NACC programs. Thank you, Ginger!

Emily Dufour, Membership Coordinator

Emily joined NACC in 2021, bringing years of expertise in association management. Emily keeps the NACC member experience as her guide star and has contributed to the growth and development of organizational memberships and NACC’s State Coordinator program. Emily is the friendly face you can count on when you email [email protected]. Thank you, Emily!

Leyda Garcia-Greenawalt, MSW, National Law School Student Organizer

Leyda joined NACC in 2022 as the inaugural student organizer. Diving right in, she developed NACC on Campus and is helping build a website Student Hub, add Next Generation News in The Guardian, and expand student chapters to build the pipeline to child welfare careers – all part-time while going to law school. Thank you, Leyda!

Allison Green, JD, CWLS, Legal Director

Allison joined NACC in 2019 and has been instrumental in the development and growth of NACC’s technical assistance, policy advocacy, and amicus curiae programs. Allison effectively translates her vast expertise on Title IV-E Funding, Family First, and other topics to coach and train the legal community. Allison also serves on the Leadership Team and manages NACC’s policy and communications departments. Thank you, Allison!

Jonathan Green, JD, Director of Finance and Operations

Jonathan joined NACC this October and is probably the only Director of Finance and Operations who also was a Bergstrom Child Welfare Legal Fellow in law school! The perfect combination of finance and law for NACC, Jonathan serves on the Leadership Team and will help ensure the strength of NACC’s organizational and fiscal infrastructure. Thank you, Jonathan!

Christina Lewis, JD, CWLS, Staff Attorney

Christina joined NACC in 2021 at a pivotal moment in the growth of NACC’s training programs. Christina is an invaluable partner in the development of NACC’s custom training programs and helps ensure the quality of NACC’s member webinar series, case law updates, training presentations, and The Guardian. Thank you, Christina!

Evan Molinari, Communications Manager

Evan joined NACC in 2021 to develop NACC’s first full-time communications role and lead strategic communications for the Counsel for Kids campaign. Evan quickly took the helm, developed two RFPs for NACC’s strategic communications and website, and is now leading the development of our new website while keeping all of NACC’s strategic communications and marketing on track. Thank you, Evan!

Kristen Pisani-Jacques, JD, CWLS, Training Director

Kristen joined NACC in February of 2020, just before the pandemic upended training programs. Despite these obstacles, Kristen led the substantial growth of NACC’s training programs, including the launch of custom state trainings, QIC-child rep trainings, and a new race equity training series. Kristen serves on the Leadership Team and manages NACC’s training and certification departments. Thank you, Kristen!

Cristal Ramirez, MS, Youth Engagement Manager

Cristal joined NACC in 2020 as Youth Coordinator and now Youth Engagement Manager, developing and launching NACC’s constituent engagement programs and National Advisory Council on Children’s Legal Representation. Cristal also contributes her professional and lived experience to national initiatives, presentations, such as this new Tip Sheet on engaging youth in their casework. Thank you, Cristal!

Daniel Trujillo, Director of Certification, Sales, and Technology

Daniel is the longest-serving team member with 19 years at NACC! He has served in virtually every role in the office, perhaps most significantly, the development and launch of CWLS Certification. Daniel also supports the growth of NACC’s tech platforms, CWLS certifications, and ensures NACC’s trainings and conference sessions are run on time with full participant access. Thank you, Daniel!

Natalece Washington, JD, CWLS, Policy Counsel

Natalece joined Team NACC in 2021 and masterfully developed and launched technical assistance for the Counsel for Kids campaign, which includes fact sheets, webinars, convenings, and –coming soon– a major policy paper. Natalece also chairs the staff social committee and ensures every birthday and work anniversary is recognized. Thank you, Natalece!

Sara Willis, MA, Business and Conference Manager

Sara joined Team NACC in 2008 and has ushered in the growth of NACC’s national conference and office with excellent organizational skills. Sara manages a detailed conference workplan and keeps her eye on the attendee experience and customer service. Sara also fosters community in the Denver office with holiday surprises and treats. Thank you, Sara!

We are NACC. Together we are Promoting Excellence, Building Community, Advancing Justice.

New NACC Student Chapter Guide

Start a Student Chapter!
For NACC to continue its work in the 21st century, it requires a new generation of child law advocates to carry on this vital work, both as members and chapter organizers. Check out NACC on Campus: NACC’s School Chapter Guide. https://naccchildlaw.box.com/s/u1ejf0972urnky3r5dwqq6smrag0zzcv

NACC Joins Brief Opposing Child Abuse Investigations for Children Receiving Gender-Affirming Care

Abbott v. Doe

In February 2022, Texas Attorney General Paxton issued a legal opinion indicating that certain “‘sex change’ procedures and treatments . . . when performed on children, can legally constitute child abuse under . . . the Texas Family Code.” In response, Texas Governor Gregory Abbott directed the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate any report of a child receiving gender-affirming care. DFPS complied with the directive. Arguing violations of the Texas Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and Article II of the Texas Constitution, a transgender youth, their parents, and a doctor who treats children diagnosed with gender dysphoria filed suit against the Governor, the DFPS Commissioner, and DFPS seeking declaratory and injunctive relief.

NACC, along with several nonprofit organizations, filed an amicus brief urging the Third Court of Appeals to affirm the district court’s order prohibiting those investigations. First, amici argue that gender-affirming care does not meet the well-defined definition of child abuse as there is no risk of harm or injury to the child. To the contrary, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other medical experts have concluded that gender-affirming care (i.e., treatment for gender dysphoria) can be medically necessary as it “improves the health and life outcomes of gender-expansive youth.” Second, amici contend that if parents do not comply with “well established, accepted standards of medical care” for fear of being investigated by DFPS and having their children removed, they are engaging in medical neglect which can negatively affect the child’s mental and physical health. On the other hand, parents who consent to gender-affirming care face “unwarranted investigations” and “unnecessary removals” which traumatize the entire family, especially LGBTQ youth who are placed in foster care. Lastly, amici assert that “[n]either the Governor nor the Attorney General is qualified to direct DFPS’s investigatory activity” and that DFPS should not enforce the governor’s directive. Thus, they urge the Third Court of Appeals to affirm the district court’s issuance of the injunction. A decision is currently pending before the Third Court of Appeals.

NACC Joins Amicus Brief Opposing Agency Practice of Claiming Children’s Social Security Benefits

State of Alaska, Department of Health and Social Services, et al. vs. Z.C., through his next friend, Lorenz Kaufman

The plaintiffs, a certified class of foster children in the custody of Alaska’s Office of Children’s Services (OCS), received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Old Age, Survivor, and Disability Income (OASDI) Social Security benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) appointed OCS as the plaintiffs’ representative payee, which allowed OCS to apply these benefits to reimburse itself for the costs of the plaintiffs’ foster care. Consequently, the plaintiffs did not receive the public benefits to which they were entitled.

The plaintiffs filed suit against OCS, arguing that OCS’ failure to provide notice of this policy violated due process and equal protection mandates. The Superior Court granted the plaintiffs’ summary judgment on the due process claim; however, it denied their request for the imposition of a constructive trust and disgorgement to remedy the violation. The Superior Court also dismissed the plaintiffs’ equal protection claim. The plaintiffs filed an appeal with the Alaska Supreme Court.

NACC joined several partner organizations in amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs’ cross-appeal from the Superior Court decision granting partial summary judgment in favor of OCS. Amici subsequently filed a brief seeking affirmance of the Superior Court order granting summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ due process claim under the Alaska Constitution. Amici first argue that OCS, not the SSA, is responsible for providing foster youth with notice of the award of benefits, OCS’ appointment as representative payee, and OCS’ policy of using these benefits to cover foster care costs. Next, they argue that OCS’ failure to provide notice and an opportunity to be heard “violate[d] due process because it deprive[d] the Foster Children of any opportunity to participate in the [representative payee] selection process.” Lastly, amici argue that the Social Security Act “has no provisions, express or implied, reflecting legislative intent to preempt state constitutional law requiring notice by state agencies.” Amici contend that the Superior Court judgment ordering OCS to provide notice to foster children who receive federal benefits should be affirmed. A decision is still pending before the Alaska Supreme Court.

Children’s Rights Organizations Across the Country File Supreme Court Amicus Brief Supporting ICWA

For Immediate Release: August 18, 2022
Media Contacts: Rekha Radhakrishnan, 832-628-2312, [email protected]
Evan Molinari, 339-707-0406 [email protected]

Experts say ICWA is essential to safeguard the best interests of Indian children

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, 31 children’s rights organizations with extensive experience in child protection cases filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). In the matter of Haaland v Brackeen, advocates argue ICWA safeguards children’s constitutional rights and interests by protecting family integrity for Indian families. It also ensures the rights of tribal nations to be involved in child welfare matters involving their citizens. The brief demonstrates that ICWA protects Indian children’s best interests by ensuring a specific application of regular child welfare practice for children who have a particular legal status as a result of their tribal affiliation. In short, ICWA helps shape and ultimately defines best interest for Indian children.

“Lawyers who represent children know that ICWA protects children’s constitutional rights, their relationships to family, and their ties to their cultural identity,” said Allison Green, Legal Director of the National Association of Counsel for Children. “In overwhelmed state court systems, ICWA helps judges make informed best-interest decisions, and the children’s rights community stands together in support of this cornerstone law.”

Haaland v Brackeen is a lawsuit brought by Texas and several individual plaintiffs who allege that ICWA is unconstitutional and has worked its way through the 5th Circuit, which reaffirmed the constitutionality of ICWA in August 2019. Now under review by the United States Supreme Court, oral arguments are slated for November.

Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 to prevent the separation of Indian children from their families and culture, addressing a history of harm and subsequent trauma experienced by Native communities. It recognizes the vital role of tribal identity and cultural continuity for the child and for tribal stability. Nationwide, lawyers who represent children agree that ICWA helps them pursue justice on behalf of native children.

“The unfortunate reality is that child welfare systems across the country are failing the children in their care, limiting the information available to courts,” said Kathryn Eidmann, Senior Supervising Staff Attorney at Public Counsel. “Texas falsely claims that ICWA harms children, when in fact its own child welfare infrastructure has been found to lack basic elements required to keep all children—including Indian children—safe. ICWA assists state courts by ensuring that they have the information and guidance needed to make sound, individualized determinations in Indian children’s best interests.”

For judges facing difficult, multifactor decisions when determining a child’s best interest, ICWA provides essential guidance by acknowledging tribal affiliation as a cultural bedrock for Indian communities that supports children as they grow into healthy adults. The law’s provisions include recognizing tribal jurisdiction over decisions about their children, establishing minimum federal standards for removing Indian children from their families, and creating placement preferences for Indian children who are removed from their home with extended family or tribal families.

“The Indian Child Welfare Act recognizes the unique history of forced family separation experienced by tribal children and has kept tribal youth connected to their families and heritage,” said Kristen Weber, Senior Director of Child Welfare at National Center for Youth Law. “This constitutional and necessary protection recognizes it is in the best interest of children to be with their family. Tribes and families should be empowered to lead in making decisions that impact their children’s futures, not forced to live in fear of unwarranted, unnecessary and harmful state intervention.”

Read the amici statements for interest https://publiccounsel.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Brackeen-amici-statements-of-interest.pdf

Read the brief https://publiccounsel.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/NACC-Amicus-Br.-filed-8.18.22.pdf

Recentering NACC’s Strategy Consistent with Our Values and Commitments

In this 45th anniversary year, the NACC board, staff, and National Advisory Council on Children’s Legal Representation (NACCLR) reviewed and updated the organization’s strategic plan to reflect our current values and organizational commitments.

The NACC board adopted a five-year 2019-2023 Strategic Plan in 2018. At the time, the board and staff were primarily focused on NACC’s organizational development, growth, and fiscal sustainability. By the half-way point in our plan, NACC had successfully refocused our core programming, expanded our team, and strengthened our business model. NACC had also engaged in race equity training and launched NACC’s NACCLR, then known as NACC’s National Youth Advisory Board.

As 2020 unfolded, it became mission-critical to us that we needed to formally center race equity and constituent engagement in NACC’s mission, vision, and goals. From November 2021 to March 2022, the board, staff, and advisory council members engaged in a strategic plan refresh with the support of consultants from Community Wealth Partners, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. NACC’s core programs remain the same, but our goals and purpose have shifted from accelerating growth to ensuring equity and inclusion across all areas of our work.

On April 30, 2022, the Board of Directors unanimously adopted the refreshed strategic plan:

NACC VISION: Every child, parent, and family is well-supported in their community and has equitable access to justice through culturally-responsive, client-centered legal representation.

NACC MISSION: NACC advances children’s and parents’ rights by supporting a diverse, inclusive community of child welfare lawyers to provide zealous legal representation and by advocating for equitable, anti-racist solutions co-designed by people with lived experience.

These values and priorities were then woven into revised organizational goals which remain anchored in NACC’s three-part strategy:

Promoting Excellence

Increase and diversify the national community of Child Welfare Law Specialists.

Deliver timely, frequent, responsive, and updated trainings informed by constituent voice, including presenters with lived experience, and with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Publish the Fourth Edition of Child Welfare Law & Practice, the “Red Book,” re-envisioning the content and contributors and focusing on race equity, LGBTQIA justice, balancing new voices with expertise, and contributor diversity.

Building Community

Increase support to a growing membership, with focus on increasing diversity, inclusion, and modernizing membership tools and resources for the field.

Utilize law school, State Coordinator, and board partnerships to expand member diversity and promote pipeline to and tenure in child welfare law profession.

Build a larger and more diverse conference attendance through scholarships and a variety of conference offerings.

Advancing Justice

Collaborate with individuals with lived experience to co-design policies, positions, assessments, and amicus briefs that advance NACC’s policy agenda.

Partner with NACC members and individuals with lived experience to refresh NACC’s policy agenda with a focus on race equity and constituent engagement.

Deploy digital and traditional communications that center the voices of people with lived experience; elevate NACC’s mission, policy positions, and expertise; emphasize equity and justice; and reach practitioners, youth, parents, families, policymakers, and the child welfare community.

With this refreshed plan, the NACC staff and board will hold itself accountable to authentically engaging experts with lived expertise as we work to build a more diverse, inclusive community of advocates advancing justice in the child welfare system. We look forward to sharing more with you as this work continues in the coming years