Throughout the month of November, people across the United States celebrate Native American Heritage Month, a commemoration of rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and the important contributions of Native peoples.

The Indian Child Welfare Act’s (ICWA) anniversary is Sunday, November 8.

Join the National Indian Child Welfare Association by taking a stand for Native children and families to celebrate ICWA’s legacy of keeping Native children safe, healthy, and connected to their families, communities, and cultures.

What is ICWA?

On November 8, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed ICWA into law in response to the alarmingly high rates of American Indian and Alaska Native children removed from their homes and placed in foster care. ICWA requires that caseworkers provide active efforts to assist families, and if removal from the home is necessary, that they identify a child placement with family whenever possible. ICWA provides minimum federal requirements for state child custody proceedings, applying to children who are members of a federally recognized tribe or are eligible for membership.

Learn more about the Indian Child Welfare Act’s history, impact, and role in state child custody proceedings.

Want to Get Involved?

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, show your support for ICWA and participate in the #ICWAForFamilies social media campaign from Monday, November 16, to Thursday, November 19.

Whether you are a long-time advocate for Native families or you’re joining the conversation for the first time, your voice matters. Together, we can raise awareness with a unified message about the vital role ICWA plays in the lives of Native children and families all over the country.

Use Our Social Media Toolkit
Help us amplify our collective voice in support of ICWA by sharing #ICWAforFamilies on social media from Monday, November 16 through Thursday, November 19. Find shareable graphics and posts for daily messages in the Social Media Toolkit.

Join Our Tweet Chat
On November 19th, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time, join us for the #ICWAForFamilies Twitter chat. Find the questions in the Social Media Toolkit.

Why is ICWA Important?

Prior to ICWA, studies revealed that large numbers of Native children were being separated from their parents, extended families, and communities. An estimated 25-35% of all Native children were removed from their homes and placed in foster care, and of these, 85% were placed in non-Native homes. ICWA was established to ensure children and their families stay together. Today, Native children are still over-represented in state child welfare systems—sometimes at rates up to 12 times their proportion of the population. 

Use the following resource to provide families, child welfare workers, agencies, tribes, and tribal organizations the best possible information regarding ICWA.

What is the Protect ICWA Campaign?

The Protect ICWA Campaign was established by four national Native organizations: the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), the National Congress of American Indians, the Association on American Indian Affairs, and the Native American Rights Fund. Together, the Campaign works to serve and support American Indian and Alaska Native children, youth, and families through upholding the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Campaign works to inform policy, legal, and communications strategies with the mission to uphold and protect ICWA.

Read our latest case summary and press release following the case Brackeen v. Bernhardt in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.



NICWA works to support the safety, health, and spiritual strength of American Indian and Alaska Native children along the broad continuum of their lives. NICWA supports tribes in building the capacity to prevent child abuse and neglect through positive systems change at the state, federal, and tribal levels. We are the most comprehensive source of information on American Indian and Alaska Native child welfare.

Check out more of our resources:

The Indian Child Welfare Act: A Family’s Guide
Learn more about common questions about ICWA and answers questions about the law, considerations in an ICWA case, and active efforts.

A Guide to Compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act
Develop a deeper understanding of ICWA’s requirements with this guide to compliance. It’s recommended to read this in conjunction with the law and the binding federal regulations.

Contemporary Attachment and Bonding Research: Implications for American Indian/Alaska Native Children and their Service Providers
Gain some insight about attachment and bonding research and how it applies to ICWA placement preferences and service providers working with American Indian and Alaska Native families.

Heart of ICWA Videos
This multi-part digital storytelling series features family members, tribal leaders, adult adoptees, and youth that were in foster care sharing their “lived experience” of how ICWA has impacted their lives.

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