Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

Creation of the ICWA

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was created in 1978 by the federal government in order to re-establish tribal authority over the adoption of Native American children.


The goal of the act was to strengthen and preserve Native American families and culture. The ICWA requires that placement cases involving Native American children be heard in tribal courts, if possible, and permits a child's tribe to be involved in state court proceedings. The Act requires testimony from expert witnesses who are familiar with Native American culture before a child can be removed from his/her home. If a child is removed, either for foster care or adoption, the law requires that Native American children be placed with extended family members, other tribal members, or other Native American families.

DCFS Coordinates and Consults with Tribal Entities

The Nevada Revised Statutes embodies the provisions of the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act in several subsections of the State law and promotes collaboration with tribes on the ICWA. DCFS coordinates and consults with four main tribal entities: Northern Paiute, Southern Paiute, Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, and Shoshone. There are a total of 26 federally recognized tribal entities in Nevada that include bands, colonies and reservations and two urban Indian organizations, the Las Vegas Indian Center and Nevada Urban Indians, Inc. These tribal entities work together with DCFS and counties through the Indian Child Welfare Steering Committee that was developed to ensure compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Child Welfare Steering Committee

The committee’s membership consists of representatives from the Nevada Indian Child Welfare Association, Inter-tribal Council of Nevada, 26 Nevada Tribal Social Service agencies, Bureau of Indian Affairs – Western and Eastern Regional Offices, Nevada Urban Indians, Inc., Las Vegas Indian Center, Nevada Indian Commission, DCFS, University of Nevada Training Partnership, Clark County Department of Family Services, Washoe County Department of Social Services and community-based service agencies, such as Stepping Stones Tribal Emergency Shelter.

The Steering Committee has been collaborating to improve the provision of child welfare services and protections under section 422(b)(10) of the Act to Native American children under both State and Tribal jurisdiction. DCFS developed a “Jurisdictional Table” to assist with determining the application of the Indian Child Welfare Act. In addition, the Nevada Children’s Justice Act Task Force has published the “Indian Child Welfare Resource Guide for Nevada” that was jointly developed by the members of the Indian Child Welfare Steering Committee.

Tribal entities participate on the Child Welfare State Plan Steering Committee, statewide planning activities and training with a mutual goal to improve services for all children in Nevada. DCFS continues to collaborate with the Nevada Tribes and tribal entities on improving the child welfare system for Native American children.