Fort & Smith on ICWA During the Brackeen Years

Forthcoming in the Juvenile & Family Court Journal

From 2017 through 2022, while the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) was under direct constitutional attack from Texas, state courts around the country continued hearing appeals on ICWA with virtually no regard for the decision making happening in Haaland v. Brackeen in the federal courts. For practitioners following or working on both sets of cases, this duality felt surreal, as they practiced their daily work under an existential threat. The data in this article draws from the authors’ previous publications providing annual updates on ICWA appeals, and now includes cases through 2021. It provides a description of appellate data trends across this time period, as well as for each year, while also highlighting key appellate decisions from jurisdictions across the country. Perhaps what this article demonstrates more than any single thing is the amount that ICWA is a part of child welfare practitioners’ daily lives now, in a way that will be difficult to upend, regardless of the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision.

This is particularly recommended for practitioners–we’ve taken the data from all our past articles to put them into one. One of our charts still needs a labels fix from our data expert, Alicia Summers, but otherwise the article has undergone peer review and will be published soon.

2021 ICWA Cases–Initial Screenshots

I’m still cleaning the data for the 2021 ICWA cases, but here are a few screen shots that might be interesting. Federal cases are excluded. This dataset is based on my reading of Lexis/Westlaw alerts as well as a few individual state alerts. Mistakes are mine.

AFCARS Comments Due June 18

Here are the previous posts on the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.

These comments are to tell the federal government (AGAIN) to start collecting basic data on state ICWA cases. While we would like the original rule to stand (and say so in the model tribal comments), there is also an opportunity to request very specific data elements that are less complicated or confusing than the ones currently offered.

If you would like information on this issue or model tribal comments, please email Jack Trope (information handouts), Delia Sharpe (model comments), or me (both/either). If you are a law professor interested in signing on to excellent comments, email Seth Davis at Berkeley.

jtrope@casey.org

delia.sharpe@caltribalfamilies.org

fort@law.msu.edu

sdavis@law.berkeley.edu

 

Abigail Echo-Hawk on Decolonizing Data

Here

When we think about data, and how it’s been gathered, is that, from marginalized communities, it was never gathered to help or serve us. It was primarily done to show the deficits in our communities, to show where there are gaps. And it’s always done from a deficit-based framework. They talk about how our communities have the highest rates of obesity, have the highest rates of diabetes, highest rates of infant mortality. How our people may be experiencing high rates of opiate misuse.

What they don’t talk about is the strengths of our community. What we know, particularly for indigenous people, is that there was a genocide and assimilation policies and termination policies that were perpetuated against us. If they had worked, we wouldn’t be here. And so we were always strength-based people, who passed on and continued knowledge systems regardless of people who tried to destroy us.

Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Notice of Proposed Rule Making. Again.

Here.

We cannot currently track on a national level in any way how ICWA works, where children who are involved in ICWA cases are placed, what their outcomes are, or how many cases are transferred to tribal court, as examples. There is barely statewide data available, and most of it is on a county-by-county level. As just one example, Michigan is in a federal lawsuit over its data collection system.

I am deeply tired of hearing that tracking this information is simply too burdensome for the states that are putting children in care, and then getting hit in lawsuit after lawsuit with claims that are not supported by any data, but also cannot be refuted by data we refuse to collect.

If your tribe wants to submit comments, there will be model comments available before the deadline of June 18.

GAO Report on Native Youth Involvement in the Juvenile Justice System

Here

However, more Native American youth were involved in the federal system than their percentage in the nationwide population (1.6 percent). For example, of all youth arrested by federal entities during the period, 18 percent were Native American. According to Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, this is due to federal jurisdiction over certain crimes involving Native Americans. Comprehensive data on Native American youth involvement in tribal justice systems were not available for analysis. GAO’s analysis showed several differences between Native American and non-Native American youth in the federal justice system. For example, the majority of Native American youths’ involvement was for offenses against a person, such as assault and sex offenses. In contrast, the majority of non-Native American youths’ involvement was for public order offenses (e.g., immigration violations) or drug or alcohol offenses. On the other hand, in state and local justice systems, the involvement of Native American and non-Native American youth showed many similarities, such as similar offenses for each group.

via Indianz

AFCARS Data Implementation Rule Delayed and Will be Revised. Again.

From the Administration for Children and Families here.

The rule is delayed until 2020 and the Administration is going to “streamline” the data elements. And then it might just be delayed again based on the “streamlining”:

The Children’s Bureau published in the Federal Register on August 21, 2018 a final rule to delay implementation of the December 2016 AFCARS final rule until October 1, 2020 (83 FR 42225). However, since we plan to revise the AFCARS data points, we will revisit this implementation date to provide a timeframe to allow title IV-E agencies time to comply with the revised AFCARS data points.

AFCARS Tribal Comments Needed-June 13 Deadline

The Administrating is reconsidering the burdens of the Obama Administration’s Final Rule to collect data on American Indian/Alaska Native children in foster care through the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). Comments are due June 13. Previous posts explaining this call for comments are here and here and here.

If you are interested in reviewing model comments for tribes stating the data elements should remain intact, please email Delia Sharpe (California Tribal Families Coalition)  at delia.sharpe@caltribalfamilies.org or me at fort@law.msu.edu

We will both be at the California ICWA conference today and tomorrow.

HHS in the News, and in Regulations, and in Lawsuits

Late last week, this article from Politico started making the rounds:

But the Trump administration contends the tribes are a race rather than separate governments, and exempting them from Medicaid work rules — which have been approved in three states and are being sought by at least 10 others — would be illegal preferential treatment. “HHS believes that such an exemption would raise constitutional and federal civil rights law concerns,” according to a review by administration lawyers.

The Tribal Technical Advisory Group sent a letter to Administrator Verma, linked to in the article and also posted here. The Dear Tribal Leader letter from CMS is attached as an appendix to that letter. As the article states, the letter says “Unfortunately, we are constrained by statute and are concerned that requiring states to exempt AI/ANs from work and community engagement requirements could raise civil rights issues” with no further explanation.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). So is the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), which has recently called into question the Final Rule on collecting additional data on children in foster care, including important elements on ICWA and also LGBTQ+ kiddos.

Since the election, there have been articles describing VP Pence’s interest in HHS:

On Monday, President Donald Trump nominated Alex Azar, a former Indianapolis-based drug executive and longtime Pence supporter as Health and Human Services secretary. If confirmed, Azar would join an Indiana brain trust that already includes Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and Surgeon General Jerome Adams. Two of Verma’s top deputies — Medicaid director Brian Neale and deputy chief of staff Brady Brookes — are former Pence hands as well, as is HHS’ top spokesman, Matt Lloyd.

Finally, in late March, Texas, which had added two additional states as plaintiffs in the first amended complaint–Indiana and Louisiana–amended their complaint in Texas v. Zinke to include HHS and Secretary Azar as defendants in the ICWA lawsuit, where Count IV claims ICWA’s placement preferences violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.