Update No 6,
July ,2010
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It's been 13 months since the last publication, and the BIA released a new entry of Designated Tribal Agents in the Federal Register on May 19th 2010. With revisions in over 75% of Tribe's entries the release represents significant move by the BIA. The Ayazuta team has been working long hours and have now completed the review of the new Federal Register entry, and updated our searchable Tribal ICWA contacts database.

In terms of the quality of information in the release, there have been significant improvements, particularly in Alaska, while in some other BIA regions the only changes have been to remove fax numbers from the register entry. Our initial estimate is that the Federal Register now agrees with our own research for nearly 50% of Tribes, but some core issues still remain:

  • Lack of consistency between BIA Regional list and Alphabetical list
  • Failure to recognize Tribes' reversion to historical names
  • Limited recognition of e-mail addresses and Tribal websites
  • Carry over of existing errors

Ayazuta's team will do a more detailed analysis in the coming weeks, meanwhile our users can go back to using our database without having to cross check the new BIA list.

Ayazuta.com-Search can now be accessed through links at:

The National Indian Child Welfare association (NICWA)
Fostering Together, The State of Michigan Courts

And is now in regular use by State and County agencies in:

Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada,New Mexico,New York,Oregon,Pennsylvania,South Dakota,Utah,Washington State & Washington DC

Underline's are new visitors

ayazuta-search

One of the challenges of maintaining the Tribal contacts database is trying to make the search function as intuitive as possible for users, so they can get to the information they need as quickly as possible.

In the last few days, we have rolled out a new search function with "type ahead” results, so as users start to type their query, the possible results will be presented. The user can then continue to type, to get to the exact result required, or can click on one of the possible answers. It will work a bit like the Google, Yahoo and Bing search engines. Give it a try!!

WHY is ICWA Compliance SO Important - the Expert Witness Perspective

Indian Child Welfare Experts & Cultural Competency: What is Good for the Goose is Not Good for the Gander

By Vevila Hussey, MSW & Indian Child Welfare Expert Consultant

As a former social worker and Native American Cultural Specialist for Children's Services, I personally was on the receiving end of numerous questions regarding the Indian Child Welfare Act and it's procedures. "Why do Indian people get to have an expert,” and "where do I find one” were just a couple. For those readers who have only had one or two experiences with cases in which the ICWA applies, this article is for you.

Growing up in the American public school system, young American Indian and non Indian youth are taught that Columbus "discovered” America, and that the Indians and Pilgrims happily created the first Thanksgiving dinner in a peaceful state of culinary bliss and peace. While in college some learn the truth about these falsehoods, most do not, and the number of those that learn the American Indian version of events and go into the child welfare field are even smaller. The celebration of Columbus Day and local, regional, and national sport teams who use "Indians” or something similar as their title and mascot further blur the lines. (I've frequently heard people say that there are no Indians alive today. Really??!!) Inaccurate information and stereotypes regarding American Indians flourish, and culturally relevant child rearing practices are no exception.

Central to the future survival of American Indian Tribes is the ability to ensure that Indian children are raised in accordance to traditional Tribal customs and remain within the Indian community. My American Indian readers might be shocked to know that as a Native American Specialist for an urban County child welfare program, there were numerous staff who expressed, "Who cares if the family that cares for the child is white or not? As long as they‘re not abusing them they should be happy.” I also heard, "Why is this expert telling me how to do my job?” In the case of Indian Child Welfare, what is good for the goose, is absolutely not good for the gander.

The history of American Indian / Euro-American relations has been one in which repeated attempts were made to annihilate or force the Indian to assimilate to Euro-American culture. Forced conversion to Christianity, forced relocation and attempted genocide, the division of Indian land through the Dawes Act of 1887, the attempted forced assimilation into mainstream culture through the Indian Appropriations Act, and the attempted eradication of American Indian culture after the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 are just a few of the policies and practices that have fostered a deep mistrust of the American government within American Indian communities. Of significant importance was the boarding school experiences of generations of American Indians. Many youth were literally kidnapped in the middle of the night by government representatives, moved hundreds of miles away from their family, and were punished for looking like, acting like, or being American Indian. While the typical attitude of the dominant culture at the time was that they were providing a great service, changing the "savages” to Christians and all, the reality was a cold and harsh one, even for a resilient people like us. The kidnapped youth were left on their own once they became an adult, (much like those emancipating out of the foster care system today), and returned to their families' home to find they didn't fit in anymore. Suddenly, generations of American Indian's were caught between two conflicting worlds, without the benefit of the cultural traditions and strengths that once shielded them. To the detriment of Tribes, the dominant culture imposed their belief system onto their assessment of American Indian families for hundreds of years.

The Indian Child Welfare Expert Witness' role is to offer a culturally relevant assessment in Indian child welfare cases. Most Americans have no idea what is normal in South Africa or Peru, as most non-Indian Americans are also not aware of what "typical” is in the American Indian community. Is the child at risk of serious emotional and/or physical harm if left in the care of the Indian parent or custodian? While most child welfare workers can answer this question for the Euro-American family, the differing value systems and orientation to life of Indian and non-Indian communities require a Qualified Expert Witness' (QEW) assessment, as per Section 224.6 of the Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC).

In all ICWA cases the Tribe should first be contacted regarding the family's case. Accurate Tribal Notice is imperative, and must include all the information requested on the form and be sent to the correct individual on behalf of the Tribe. Ayazuta contains accurate Tribal information and is audited regularly for accuracy.

The Tribe should also be contacted to determine if they desire to provide an Expert Witness. Tribes do not always have an Expert Witness available due to the betrayal often felt by the possibility of testifying against a family member. For those cases, in California, the Administrative

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Office of the Courts has a listing of Experts according to region. Finally, many County Child Welfare Services offices already have a listing of Experts they contract with who have qualified as Expert Witnesses in Court.

To provide an accurate assessment, the QEW needs to be provided with the contact information for the family, the Tribal representative, case notes (also known as chronos), and all Court reports related to the case in question.

Today, the resilience of Tribes and American Indian people are more evident than ever. The Indian Child Welfare Expert, partnered with a social worker who follows the Indian Child Welfare Act's mandates, and the Tribe, are facilitating a return to a traditional, yet modern way of life. The goose, totally unlike the gander, is left to express it's own song.

Vevila Hussey, MSW, Indian Child Welfare Expert Consultant in California, please contact here at professionalnaconsulting@gmail.com.

If you would like your perspective on ICWA compliance used in our next newsletter, please contact Kevin@h7i.com

Why Ayazuta?

We have spent 2 years researching ICWA compliance issues, and developing solutions for Tribes, States and welfare organizations. We can help you increase ICWA compliance, reduce costs, and improve outcomes for Indian Children.Ayazuta has, and will continue to evolve as a community driven design, based on benefits to the Native American Child, the Tribe and the Case Worker.