We’ve written about this in the past. Here is a letter from NICWA explaining more about the regulations, and the reason for written comments (and if you scroll to the bottom, they’ve even provided a sample comments letter):
Dear Advocates for the Indian Child Welfare Act,
The National Indian Child Welfare Association has been diligently working for over 25 years to increase state compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). This has included training of state and tribal workers, helping tribes develop inter-governmental agreements with states, participating in state and federal ICWA cases, and advocating for federal monitoring of state ICWA compliance. One of the areas where the greatest need exists is data collection. No federal agency collects comprehensive data on the status of native children and their families who are involved in state child welfare proceedings and subject to ICWA.
NICWA has advocated for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) under the Department of Health and Human Services to collect ICWA data on individual cases, both because of the relationship they have with states through funding and policy, and because of federal law and policy that directs them to collect some related data. ACF has resisted efforts to collect more comprehensive ICWA data in the past, but draft regulations published in the Federal Register on February 9, 2015 propose collecting new data within the federal government’s largest data system for children who are placed in out of home care by state or county child welfare authorities. This system is the Automated Foster Care and Adoption Reporting System (AFCARS) and these proposed regulations present the best opportunity for tribal nations to finally convince ACF to collect ICWA data.
NICWA is making the case that these proposed regulations should also include ICWA data elements, which are open for public comment until April 10, 2015, but we need your help if we are going to convince ACF to do this. The process for evaluating comments and what changes should be made in AFCARS will look at the number of individual comments ACF receives as well as the content of those comments. In other words, if we are able to provide ACF with substantial numbers of comments that recommend the inclusion of ICWA data elements in AFCARS, we may finally have a federal data system that regularly collects and tracks ICWA data. To make your job of filing comments easier, NICWA has provided a sample comments letter that you can use or modify as you see fit. We are also providing instructions below on how to file your comments electronically.
This is an almost a once in a lifetime opportunity to finally get a more comprehensive collection of ICWA data. The last time AFCARS was open for substantive changes was in the early 1990’s so we probably won’t see another opportunity like this for many, many years. NICWA will be filing comments, but we also need your help too. If you have any questions about AFCARS, the proposed regulations, or how this will help ICWA compliance, please don’t hesitate to contact either myself or Addie Smith firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to thank you in advance for your help to increase the information and tools we have to increase protections under ICWA for our native children and families.
Notice of Public Rulemaking on AFCARS
AFCARS Sample Comments Letter
Instructions on how to file comments electronically via www.regulations.gov (see link below for submission)
- In the Comment box provide your name, contact information, and who you are submitting the comments on behalf of. State that you are uploading a file attachment that contains your comments. Don’t try to copy your comments letter in here unless it is less than 5000 characters (approximately 1.25 pages of text).
- In the Upload File(s) box click on Choose File then select the comments letter from your computer.
- In the First Name and Last Name boxes add the contact person’s name
- Check the appropriate box for whether you want to show your contact information or whether you are submitting the comments on behalf of a third party.
David Simmons, MSW | Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy
National Indian Child Welfare Association
5100 SW Macadam Avenue, Suite 300
Portland, OR 97239