About Conference

42nd Annual Protecting Our Children Conference
April 7-10, 2024 — Seattle, WA

Each year, NICWA hosts the largest national gathering on American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) child advocacy issues. With over 1,500 attendees—and growing every year—this three-day conference has become the premiere national event addressing tribal child welfare and well-being. Keynote speakers range from federal officials at the highest level of government to youth with lived experience in child welfare systems.

NICWA provides meaningful programming to conference attendees, creating a space where participants can learn about the latest developments and best practices from experts in the field and from one another. Participants represent a cross-section of fields and interests including child welfare, mental health, and juvenile justice service providers; legal professionals; students; advocates for children; and tribal, state, and federal leaders.

Conference Theme 

Together We Stand Preserving the Spirit of ICWA

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 powerfully proclaims “…that it is the policy of this Nation to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian families… (25 U.S.C. § 1902).” The spirit of ICWA ensures our children grow up with strong cultural identities, rooted in the language and traditions of our ancestors, so that our tribal communities remain strong. For over forty years, tribal nations fought to uphold this declaration and constitutional protection of their children. This has never been more evident than the coalitionbuilding, including grassroots efforts, that occurred during the Haaland v. Brackeen case. We saw 502 tribal nations, 62 Native organizations, 23 states and D.C., 87 congresspersons, and 27 child welfare and adoption organizations declare in unity their support for ICWA. Standing in solidarity with one another is how we achieved success. With this decision on the record, Indian Country is emboldened in our work to ensure compliance with ICWA and strengthen its implementation. With ICWA’s solid legal foundation affirmed, now is the time to work together to lift up tribal best practices and increase tribal child welfare capacity. To strengthen ICWA implementation, we must put our sights on tribal and state relationships, state ICWA laws, state-tribal policies and agreements, increased funding for tribal services including culturally based services, and federal policy and data collection. NICWA’s 42nd Annual Protecting Our Children Conference features innovative workshops, presentations, and cultural activities that provide the expertise and experience to support this advocacy agenda and build worker capacity to continue the important work of providing cultural best practices for Native children and families. We welcome you to join us in Seattle, Washington!

Conference Goals:

  • Highlight successful strategies for developing effective services
  • Reveal the latest and most innovative child welfare and children’s mental health service delivery practices
  • Highlight tactics and strategies for financing and sustaining services that impact children
  • Showcase strategies for involving youth and families in developing services and policies that lead to systems change
  • Create peer-to-peer networks that will assist each other in the work toward permanency for all AI/AN families
  • Share the latest research on the well-being of AI/AN children and effective child welfare and children’s mental health services, practices, and policies

Year after year, attendees share their enthusiasm and the value of their time spent together during the NICWA conference.

Who Should Attend?

All individuals who are committed to serving American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children and their families are encouraged to attend. Moreover, many sessions target one or more of these groups:

  • Child welfare workers, directors, and staff from tribal, state, and federal programs
  • Tribal leaders
  • Substance abuse treatment staff
  • Mental health service providers
  • Law enforcement
  • Judges, attorneys, and court and legal staff
  • Teachers, counselors, educators, school administrators, and staff
  • BIA and IHS social service staff
  • Grassroots community organizers
  • Private practice providers
  • Parents, guardians, elders, and extended family members

“I met some wonderful contacts and was able to network with other members and presenters about services and resources that will help me better serve my community.”

“I felt like it was the epitome of being Indigenous, everyone working and moving and collaborating together as one for one main purpose.”

“Thank you so much for the renewed faith, vigor, and hope that we are progressing in our fight to protect our children.”

“This was my first conference. The experience was amazing. I’ve seen a lot of Natives, but to see all of the people here for one thing—our children—I learned a lot from meeting other people here.”