Coronavirus Update

March 12, 2020, 2:00 p.m. PT

The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) Board of Directors and staff have made the difficult decision, after careful consideration and comprehensive evaluation of currently available information related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, to cancel the 38th Annual Protecting Our Children Conference in Denver, Colorado, scheduled to take place Sunday, March 29–Wednesday, April 1.

NICWA will hold a virtual, amended version of the Protecting Our Children Conference on Monday, March 30–Wednesday, April 1.

Supporting the health and well-being of Native children and families is central to NICWA’s mission, and keeping people safe, especially during these rapidly developing circumstances, is paramount. As the largest national gathering of advocates for American Indian and Alaska Native children and families, we recognize our responsibility to consider the safety of families, tribes, and communities and not convene a large public gathering. Particularly given the history of epidemics in Native populations and use of disease in warfare against Indigenous peoples, the current COVID-19 pandemic has a particular cultural context for us.

We realize that, like us, many of you are disappointed about the cancellation given the outstanding quality of the agenda and speakers who were confirmed to present. We’ll also miss the opportunity to come together in person as a community of professionals to network, learn about the work happening in Native communities across the country, and advance our advocacy.

Please be assured that we will deliver key components of the Protecting Our Children Conference experience to registrants. We are actively working to transition the in-person conference to a virtual conference. We will continue to share updates, including what to expect if you are currently registered as an attendee, exhibitor, or vendor, or are a sponsor. Paid conference registrants will be eligible for a full refund less $150, which will be transferred to registration for the virtual conference. Paid NICWA memberships will be retained. Exhibitors are eligible for a full refund. If you have not paid for conference registration and would like to attend the virtual Protecting Our Children Conference, you can still register.

For more information, please see the Frequently Asked Questions.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to the well-being of Native children and families.

About Conference

38th Annual Protecting Our Children National American Indian Conference 
March 29–April 1, 2020
Denver, Colorado

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 four-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.

Our conference goals are to:

  • 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.”