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NACC Executive Director Kim Dvorchak pens letter to the editor defending ICWA

Wednesday January 12, 2022

George F. Will’s Jan. 6 op-ed on the Indian Child Welfare Act sidestepped important facts and used misleading storytelling to argue against this critical law.

Mr. Will’s tragic stories falsely imply increased danger to children placed with their parents or tribal kin. Unfortunately, children of all backgrounds experience harm inside and outside foster care. He suggested Brackeen v. Haaland hinges on safety. This case is an appeal of adoption decisions, not safety determinations.

Mr. Will protested “identity politics” while omitting the crux of the legal debate: The ICWA is a political classification, not a racial one. Tribal sovereignty must be respected as a means of self-determination for Native people to have a say in what happens to their children and families.

The question before the court is one of tribal sovereignty and cultural identity in healthy child development. The child welfare system disproportionately impacts Native American children, placing them in foster care at rates more than two times higher than their proportion of the population. As Canada recently recognized, many family separations are unnecessary. Cases from Pima County, Ariz., in which tribes are actively engaged have shown that children have better results under the ICWA.

The ICWA is gold-standard practice because it guards against unnecessary government intrusion, protects family relationships, and emphasizes familial and cultural identity. The Supreme Court should recognize the ICWA as a vital tool to address ongoing injustices against Native and non-Native children alike.

Kim Dvorchak, Denver

Kim’s letter was published in the Washington Post on January 11, 2022

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