Emmons bill would codify Indian Child Welfare Act into state law

Emmons bill would codify Indian Child Welfare Act into state law

LANSING— Legislation that would make it easier for local judges to follow and apply state law with regards to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) will be introduced in the Michigan Senate later this month, said state Sen. Judy Emmons.

Congress enacted ICWA in 1978 to help curb the issue of American-Indian children facing a higher risk of removal from their homes, by non-American-Indian social workers.

The ICWA establishes minimum federal standards for the removal of Indian children from their homes, and the placement of those children into foster homes. The language of the ICWA was drafted to leave room for interpretation amongst the states, and a result has been inconsistent implementation of ICWA.

In 2008, a special committee was formed by the Michigan Supreme Court to help Michigan judges and child welfare practitioners learn more about the ICWA and understand the needs for states to comply with the act and how it can be better implemented within Michigan.

Senate Bill 1232, sponsored by Emmons, would give a direct link to state child welfare professionals. It would provide clarity and consistency to areas where the ICWA does not provide adequate explanation or instruction. The codified law would be known as the Michigan Indian Family Protection Act.

“We need to set one uniform set of guidelines and clarify as many of the misconceptions as possible,” said Emmons, R- Sheridan. “In many of our state courts, cases can be impacted by the ICWA, and we need to make sure that everyone has the proper tools to preserve the tribe’s most precious resource, the family.”