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Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Update

At the 4th Annual Indian Child Welfare Summit on October 10, 2023, keynote speaker Honorable Judge John J. Romero, Jr. (Ret.) spoke of the Spirit of Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) as well as Jack Trope (Esq.), Casey Family Programs & Kimberly Cluff (Esq.), California Tribal Families Coalition explained next steps “Post Brakeen.”  Key points included importance of building lasting State and Tribal Partnerships with Courts, engaging in meaningful association with the Indian child’s Tribe, and the Tribe as the Primary Parent.  Trope and Cluff elaborated on next steps for ICWA and The Indian Protection Act of New Mexico as the Platinum Standard. 

Other powerful summit speakers included Dr. Yellowhorse regarding Ke’ (Kinship) and blood memory, Long-Term Healing & Well-being for Current & Former Youth Panel of Lived Experts, and a youth advocacy panel along with several others sharing incredible stories of resiliency and healing.  Robert Mesa Robert Mesa (Diné/Soboba Luiseno), Actor/Artist and CASA First Director shared, “I never knew who I was, and the only thing I related to was a broken soul,” urging the importance of kindling any “glimmer” of interest in youth in foster care, as theatre and dance was his spark that led him to where he is today. 

Recently, the Sovereign Nation of Chiricahua Apache was designated as a Heritage Tribe according to California W.I.C. 306.6.  We have worked within three court cases with citizens/families.  The Courts have followed the Spirit of ICWA regarding placement and ensuring the children’s continued cultural connection with our People, while we have provided the families with Chiricahua and other Native-specific resources and support.  – Dr. Christina Cruz, PsyD, Citizen and SNOCA/CAN ICWA Representative.

For more information and resources related to ICWA:

Active efforts handout for involved families:

Youth live experiences videos:

Safe foster care:

ICWA as Gold Standard

Indian Family Protection Act of New Mexico (2022)

Dr. Cruz and Honorable Judge John J. Romero, Jr. (Ret.)
Robert Mesa