About Conference

40th Annual Protecting Our Children Conference
April 4–6, 2022 — NOW VIRTUAL-ONLY

Each year, NICWA hosts the largest national gathering on American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) child advocacy issues. With over 1,400 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.

Homecoming: 40 Years of Connecting for our Children

Our ancestors, in their villages and camps, often traveled to neighboring places to visit relatives, replenish supplies, celebrate seasons and hunts, and visit to enjoy each other’s company and share news. This physical movement was part of the cycle of their calendars, something to anticipate and look forward to. Through these relationships and interdependence, our peoples were sustained over generations. Similarly, today, no matter where we work, travel, or live, home remains the place where we feel connected. For 40 years, the Protecting Our Children Conference has been a home for those who serve our children and families to gather.

Homecoming, or coming back to our place of origin, also implies connecting to our past in appreciation of where we’ve come from, the people whose hard work and perseverance made this community life possible, and gratitude to the Creator for our existence and daily experience. This conference is an opportunity for reflection and stock-taking. We can observe where we are now, the characteristics of this place—both literally and figuratively, and the status of our people. This is a chance to affirm what we do and to adjust practices so that we may serve families better.

This homecoming will provide participants an opportunity to chart our self-determined future, to plan for the physical and social movement to create the change needed to sustain our people. Our advocacy is a call for justice and equity, the principles that guide our future. Our communities call for the structural change that will enable us to transform our helping systems and services to better support and heal children and families. Our self-determined futures and the well-being of our citizens are at stake. 

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.

“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.”