Resources for Caseworkers
Central to the mission of the National Indian Child Welfare Association is our work providing training, information, and resources to those on the front lines of tribal child welfare work. In the often-changing landscape of child welfare policy and practice, we know the importance of providing up-to-date resources that reflect best practice. Through a combination of training and professional development opportunities, our public education materials and publications, and the platforms we provide for caseworkers to connect and network with one another, NICWA strives to support those who are supporting Native children and families.
Every year, NICWA offers many training opportunities for caseworkers beyond our Annual Protecting Our Children Conference. From the popular Positive Indian Parenting Train-the-Trainer workshop that builds caseworkers’ capacity to provide culturally appropriate family preservation supports to families, to our Understanding ICWA training institute that provides caseworkers the most current information regarding regulations and implementation guidance to the Indian Child Welfare Act, NICWA dispatches its staff to communities throughout the country every year, ensuring that a training opportunity is likely coming to your area soon. NICWA trainers are also available on a fee-for-service basis.
Online ICWA Course
NICWA also offers caseworkers the opportunity for professional development with its online ICWA course. A six-module online course, our ICWA course is geared toward tribal and state caseworkers, students, and others. The course presents ICWA’s provisions in the order a child welfare worker might encounter them in an ICWA case. The course provides an explanation of the law in non-legal language, and information is provided to support sound practice.
Practice Tools and Publications
For those caseworkers who, beyond growing their skill set, seek assistance with a tribal child welfare matter at hand, NICWA has developed the following flow chart to assist in determining whether a child is an Indian child.
We have also developed our “A Guide to Compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act” and “The Indian Child Welfare Act: A Family’s Guide,” along with assorted ICWA fact sheets, to help caseworkers. We encourage caseworkers to share these materials, as well as “A Family’s Guide to the Child Welfare System,” with families they are working with and other child welfare professionals. The Native American Rights Fund also provides a Practical Guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act that includes information about ICWA, state and federal laws and court cases, forms, and other useful materials.
Should a caseworker discover they are working with a child or family with Native heritage where they are either a member or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe, ICWA requires notice of child custody proceedings to that child’s tribe. This requires sending a legal notice to the appropriate representative of that tribe. If there is any question that a child is Indian, the caseworker should send a notice to the relevant tribe(s) asking whether the child is a member or eligible for membership. Each federally recognized tribe has a designated tribal agent who serves as a point of contact on ICWA cases. Tribal agents are available here on the Bureau of Indian Affairs designated list of tribal agents for service of notice.
One of the most powerful resources a caseworker working in tribal child welfare can possess is a vast network of other professionals in the field. NICWA builds and supports such a network through the perks it offers to its members. By becoming a member of NICWA, caseworkers have access not only to additional training opportunities, but also to a platform to discuss the issues that arise in the course of case management of Native children and families and seek resources and peer support from one another.