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Preserving Tribal Families, Culture, and Communities

California's Legislation to Enforce the Indian Child Welfare Act

By Maureen Geary & Mark Radoff

Nearly thirty years after Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978, ensuring its implementation remained a challenge for California Indian tribes, who faced the state’s courts’ and county welfare agencies’ entrenched resistance to the federal law. A statewide coalition of advocates and tribes successfully pursued comprehensive statutory reform, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed their bill into law in 2006. The far-reaching new state statute clarifies the Indian Child Welfare Act’s applicability to Indian child custody proceedings in all state courts and establishes new limits on terminating the parental rights of Indian parents.

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