Uniform Law Commission Considers Uniform State ICWA Law
The Uniform Law Commission (ULC), a national organization that develops and advocates for uniform state laws, formed a Study Committee in the summer of 2022 to examine the need for a uniform Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) state law. The Study Committee, made up of attorneys in private practice, state court judges, a state legislative representative, and law professors, met to examine the need for a uniform, model state ICWA law. The ULC has leadership from each of the states that help guide the work of the ULC in developing and advocating for uniform laws. The Study Committee on Indian Child Welfare Act Issues met five times from November 2022 to July 2023 and invited select representatives from state and private organizations and tribal communities to observe. On July 13, 2023, the Study Committee issued a report on their findings.
On August 21, 2023, a virtual tribal consultation was announced and scheduled for September 6, 2023. At the consultation and in the prior announcement, it was stated that written comments on the uniform state ICWA would also be accepted until September 30, 2023. Represented on the tribal consultation call were a number of attorneys with subject matter expertise, two ULC Study Commission members, four tribal leaders, and representatives from a couple Native organizations.
On October 4, 2023, a second virtual tribal consultation was announced for Monday, November 6. The second consultation session may be a result of comments provided at the first consultation that expressed concern that more tribal leadership involvement was needed before a decision about whether to draft a uniform state ICWA law is made. The ULC letter announcing the November 6 tribal consultation and registration link. While the letter to tribal leaders does not address written comments after this second tribal consultation, NICWA encourages tribal nations to inquire about the opportunity by contacting ULC Senior Director for Strategy & Communications, Katie Robinson, at email@example.com.
NICWA’s written comments stated our support for state ICWA laws. Still, we also expressed our concerns about the limited tribal leader involvement in the Study Committee process. We recommended more tribal leader input before the Study Committee decides whether to draft a uniform state ICWA law. While having additional state ICWA laws could be helpful, there are important questions about the role of tribal nations in states where the legislation might be introduced, especially if tribal involvement is limited or not available.
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