Placement Patterns for American Indian Children Involved with Child Welfare

American Indian children are disproportionately more likely to be victims of maltreatment and to be in foster care than the general population of children, according to 2012 data. Despite Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) guidelines, only 17 percent of American Indian children not living with a biological parent reside with an American Indian caregiver.

This research brief, developed by Casey Family Programs in partnership with co-authors at the Oregon Social Learning Center and Rady Children’s Hospital, examines the extent to which the placement patterns of American Indian children in out-of-home care are aligned with the placement preference provisions outlined in ICWA.

Nearly 40 years ago, a study by the Association of American Indian Affairs found that 35 percent of all American Indian children were in out-of-home care and that about 85 percent of those children were placed with non-American Indian families. ICWA was passed in 1978 to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families” by setting minimum federal standards for removing Indian children from their families and placing them in foster or adoptive homes that reflect the unique values of Indian culture.

The research results demonstrate that there is still room for ICWA placement preferences to be realized for American Indian children, but some of the findings suggest active efforts to keep American Indian children in their home may be occurring.


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