NICWA Conference and Courts Catalyzing Change

Paula CampbellPaula Campbell, Permanency Planning for Children Department, NCJFCJ

Summary: The recent National Indian Child Welfare Association conference brought leaders in their fields together to improve outcomes for Native American children.


The National Indian Child Welfare Association held its 28th Annual Protecting Our Children Conference this April in Portland, OR. The theme was “From Opportunity to Reality: Honoring Our Dream;”the focus was on bringing resources that benefit Native American children and families into reality through program development and implementation. Featured conference sessions included Creating Tools of Sustained Change for Systems Collaboration, Effective Tribal County Collaboration Between Indian Child and Family Services, and Improving Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Compliance Through Technology and Community-Driven Design.

Multnomah County, OR, Chief Family Court Judge Nan G. Waller facilitated the session, “Courts Catalyzing Change: Tools to Reduce Disproportionality and Disparity from the Bench,” along with Cheryl Baldomaro-Lucas and Lea Ann Holder of the Oregon Department of Human Services Child Welfare Program in Portland. They described collaboration for Native American families among the various community and judicial stakeholders in Multnomah County, such as the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest and the Native American Youth and Family Center, and throughout the State of Oregon with the Safe and Equitable Initiative and the State of Oregon Task Force on Disproportionality. The session ended with lively discussion about the work of the NCJFCJ Courts Catalyzing Change (CCC) initiative, and preliminary CCC benchcard pilot test site data.

The CCC initiative, funded by Casey Family Programs and supported by the US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), brings together judicial officers and other systems experts to collaborate on a national agenda for court-based training, research and reform initiatives aimed at reducing the disproportionate representation of children of color in dependency court systems.

For more information on the programs listed above, see the following websites:

Native American Youth and Family Center:

Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest:

Oregon Safe and Equitable Initiative, Safely Reducing the Number of Oregon Children in Foster Care:

Equity Task Force:

State of Oregon, Governor’s Task Force on Disproportionality in Child Welfare:

Courts Catalyzing Change Initiative:

Additional Resources from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ)

NCJFCJ has three publications of interest for judicial stakeholders working with Native American children and families.

  • The first is the technical assistance brief, Indian Child Welfare Act Checklists for Juvenile and Family Court Judges (995 KB PDF). The Indian Child Welfare Act Checklists were created to assist juvenile and family court judges in ensuring that the necessary inquiries are being made to determine as early as possible whether the Indian Child Welfare Act applies. These checklists help judges ensure that the necessary parties have been notified and are present in all cases where ICWA may be applicable.
  • The second publication is the technical assistance brief, Court Reform and American Indian and Alaskan Native Children: Increasing Protections and Improving Outcomes (2 MB PDF). The brief provides a preliminary examination of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care’s recommendations as they pertain to state and tribal court involvement in Indian child welfare matters, state court improvement program grants, challenges and promising practices gleaned from tribal-state collaborations around court improvement, and opportunities for progressing court systems for the betterment of American Indian/Alaskan Native children. Intrinsic to this analysis is the recognition that these children have a unique political status as citizens of sovereign nations, and that these nations are inherently best equipped to identify, understand and respond to their needs.
  • The third publication is the technical assistance bulletin, Native American Resource Directory for Juvenile and Family Court Judges (409 KB PDF). The bulletin was developed with two goals: to provide information to non-tribal jurisdictions handling Native American child abuse and neglect cases; and to provide resources and information to enable non-tribal jurisdictions to more fully comply with the ICWA in case planning for Indian youth in care. The publication contains nine sections including appendices with information on national organizations, federally recognized Indian tribes (as of January 2003), and educational resources available to Native American youth. [PDF]


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