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.


Abigail Echo-Hawk on Decolonizing Data


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.


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


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 or me at

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.




Tribal Consultation on the Proposed AFCARS Changes

Here is the letter sent today: Tribal Consultation Notification 4-16-2018

This is on the proposed changes to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), the way the feds collect from the states on adoption and foster care. This is specifically about removing ICWA data elements added in last year’s final rule because of the burden of collecting information about ICWA compliance and Native kids in care.

Both consultations will be done by phone, and if there are not enough participants “may end early”. Maybe tribal leaders or their designees would like to consult about how to weigh that “burden” of gathering information so tribes and states know what is happening with Native kids in foster care for the full 90 minutes:

Tribal Consultation seeking input on the ANPRM and potential changes to AFCARS will be held through two teleconference calls on the following dates and times.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm (EDT).

Please register here:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm (EDT)

Please register here:

For both consultations, the call-in number and passcode are: 877-917-3403, Passcode: 2498350. (Please note, if there are a small number of participants on the call, the call may end sooner than 3:30 p.m.)

Both Tribal consultation teleconference calls are open to all tribal leaders or their designees and may address any aspect of the ANPRM’s request for comments on AFCARS data collection, including data elements relating to ICWA that would reported by states and all other AFCARS elements that would be reported by both states and tribes operating title IV-E programs. Overall, we are interested to hear both recommendations on data elements to retain with a justification for using the data at the national level and recommendations on any data elements to remove because they may be either overly burdensome for title IV-E agencies to report or may not be reliable or necessary at the national level.

In addition to participating in the tribal consultation conference calls, the Children’s Bureau encourages tribal leaders to submit comments in writing in response to the ANPRM, as only written comments may be included in the regulatory record. The deadline for the receipt of written comments in response to the ANPRM is June 13, 2018.

There is also a briefing webinar:

The briefing webinar to learn more about AFCARS will be held on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 from 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm (EDT). If you are interested in participating in this webinar, please register at:


We recognize that while states have many years of experience in reporting AFCARS data, tribes may not be as familiar with AFCARS. To prepare for consultation, the Children’s Bureau is offering a briefing webinar for tribal leaders and/or members of your staff. The briefing webinar will be an opportunity for tribal leaders and members of your staff to learn more about AFCARS, including current data reported by states since the 1990’s and the changes to AFCARS that were promulgated in December 2016, but have not yet been implemented.

If only well over 60 tribes and tribal organizations had submitted comments in support of the additional data elements explaining in great detail why they are needed in the last comment collection on this issue in 2016 . . .

A non-tribal specific information session/briefing webinar earlier this month was problematic on ICWA (at best). There are a number of groups working on written comments, including model versions for tribes. When they are available, we will make sure to post that information. If you’d like to post comments now, here is the comments page.

Previous posts on AFCARS here.

2016 ICWA Appellate Cases by the Numbers

Here’s our annual contribution to the ICWA data discussion. While a few cases might yet come in, we have our final list of 2016 appealed ICWA cases sorted. A note on the data–these are cases that are on Westlaw and/or Lexis Nexis, and ICWA (or state equivalent) was litigated. We collect the case name, the date, the court, the state, whether the case is reported (also called published) or not, the top two issues, up to three named tribes, the outcome of the case, and who appealed the case. These are standard state court ICWA cases, and do not include any of the ongoing federal litigation. We did this last year as well. Sadly no, I haven’t yet published this anywhere but Turtle Talk, and yes, it is next on the to-do list. If you know we are missing a case based on the numbers, and it’s publicly available, *please* send it to me [fort at] so we can add it. I’m also happy to answer questions at the same email.

There were 175 appealed ICWA cases this year, down 74 from last year. There were 30 reported ICWA cases this year. As always, California leads the states with 114 cases, 10 reported. Michigan is second with 13, 2 reported. Texas, which didn’t have any cases we could find last year, had 7 cases this year, 1 reported. Then Iowa with 6, 1 reported, Oklahoma with 4 reported, Nebraska with 3, 2 reported, and Alaska and Arizona with 3, 1 reported each. States with 2 appealed ICWA cases include Arkansas (none reported), Indiana (none reported), Ohio (none reported), Oregon (2 reported), Washington (1 reported), Illinois (1 reported). Finally the following states had 1 ICWA case: Idaho, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Kansas, North Carolina, Vermont, Kentucky, and Massachusetts.

In California, the cases further breakdown to 37 in the 4th Appellate District, 33 in the 2nd, 24 in the 1st, 9 in the 5th, 6 in the 3rd, and 3 in the 6th. California is the only state where we track by appellate districts at this time.

Supreme Courts in Oklahoma (2), Alaska (2), Idaho, Nebraska (2), South Dakota, California (2), Vermont and Washington all decided ICWA cases this year.

Of the 175 total appeals, 90 were affirmed, 67 were remanded, 14 were reversed, and the four remaining were affirmed in part and reversed in part (1), denied as moot (1), dismissed (1), vacated and remanded (1).

Top litigated issues were as follows: Notice (106), Inquiry (21), Placement Preferences (10), Active Efforts (8), Determination of Indian Child (8), Burden of Proof (5), Transfer to Tribal Court (5), Intervention, Termination of Parental Rights, Existing Indian Family, (2 cases for each one). The other cases with 1 each: Qualified Expert Witness, Indian Custodian, Tribal Customary Adoption, Application to Divorce, Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, Foster Care Placement

52 different tribes are represented in the first named tribe in a case. There were 56 cases involving claims of Cherokee citizenship. Of those appeals, 48 involved issues of notice and inquiry. In 21 cases the tribe was unknown (parent did not know name of tribe). In 14, the tribe was unnamed (court did not record name of tribe in the opinion).

4 cases were appealed by tribes (Cherokee Nation, Gila River, Shoshone Bannock). 92 were appealed by mom, 49 by dad, and 24 by both. Other parties who appealed include agency (1), child’s attorney (1), foster parents (1), great aunt and uncle (1), Indian custodian (1), and state and foster mother (1).