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Indian Child Welfare Act Conference is January 29-31

January 25, 2002

Bismarck, N.D. - A coalition of organizations is sponsoring North Dakota's first annual Indian Child Welfare Act Conference January 29-31 at the Bismarck Radisson Inn.

Titled, "In the Spirit of ICWA," the conference features presentations about historical trauma and the history of child removal, tribal sovereignty and enrollment, navigating tribal systems, creating cultural competency, as well as sessions about the intricacies of the law, and other topics.

Carol K. Olson, Executive Director of the Department of Human Services said, "This conference brings together people representing tribal agencies, county social service offices, and other agencies and organizations who all work with children and families. This is an opportunity to build relationships so that we can work together more effectively to preserve families and to protect American Indian children and their cultural identities."

Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978 to help address the disproportionate number of American Indian children removed from their families and placed in non-Indian homes and institutions. Many of these children, often referred to as 'lost birds,' lost their traditions and culture and experienced problems later in life.

American Indian children have a unique legal status derived from treaties between tribes and the United States government. Because of this unique status, if an American Indian child is removed from his or her home, ICWA requires tribal notification and active efforts to preserve the family, and it sets placement preferences.

"There will be technical information provided in the sessions, but understanding the core issues behind the law is so important," said conference coordinator Cheryl Long Feather of the Native American Training Institute. "We wanted the conference to focus on the intent of ICWA and not just the mechanics of it."

Special guest speakers include Judge William Thorne, a Pomo Indian and member of the Utah Court of Appeals, who has served as a tribal and a state judge and is currently president of the National Indian Justice Center; B.J. Jones, the litigation director for the Northern Plains Tribal Judicial Institute and author of The Indian Child Welfare Act Handbook; and Diane Tells His Name, an adoptee who was removed from her family and culture prior to ICWA. Tells His Name has been a foster parent and now helps other 'lost birds' find their roots.

Conference sponsors include the North Dakota Department of Human Services' Children and Family Services Division and Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the University of North Dakota's Children and Family Services Training Center, UND School of Law, Casey Family Programs, Professional Association of Treatment Homes (PATH), the North Dakota Community Foundation, and the North Dakota Rural Development Council.

Registration is $35 on site. For conference information and a detailed schedule of presenters and topics, contact the Native American Training Institute at (701) 255-6374 or check out the Department of Human Services Web site at www.nd.gov/humanservices.


Cheryl Long Feather, Native American Training Institute, (701) 255-6374
Heather Steffl, Public Information Specialist, North Dakota Department of Human Services, (701) 328-4933

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