Efforts are underway to establish and expand upon the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) into New Mexico state law in the 2021 legislative session

About Us

As American Indian and Alaskan Native children and families are disproportionately impacted by the child welfare system, efforts to codify ICWA into state law will be most effectively led by a spectrum of stakeholders who understand the needs of Indian children and families.

The New Mexico Tribal Indian Child Welfare Consortium (NMTIC), New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department (NM CYFD), the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW), and Bold Futures have formed a work group to draft and pass this critical legislation.

How are we leading the work?

  • Our work group is led by and centers the participation of tribal nations by actively seeking their representation and engagement throughout the process. This includes facilitated meetings where we build strategy and actively seek tribal expertise. 
  • Much of this work has been centered New Mexico Tribal Indian Child Welfare Consortium (NMTIC);  NMTIC includes tribal ICWA Social Workers representing  23 tribes in NM, We center NM TIC because of  their on-the-ground expertise working on ICWA cases and knowledge of specific issues related to each tribe will be of immense value and incredibly important to this process on what needs to be addressed in the statewide ICWA.

About ICWA

Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978; Congress recognizes the unique political status of tribes and tribal members through the establishment of ICWA

  • Congress recognizes there is a special relationship between the US and the Indian tribes and their members
  • Congress found there is no resource more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their children
  • The law protects American Indian and Alaska Native children in state child welfare systems and helps them remain connected to their families, cultures, and communities
  • Compliance is mandatory – ICWA is the best interest of the child

ICWA has become the “gold standard” of child welfare policy with experts including those leading child advocacy organizations in our state and nationally

  • ICWA in response to overwhelming high numbers of Indian children being forcibly removed from their families and communities
  • ICWA creates minimum protections for Indian children in the child welfare system
  • ICWA specifically addresses system abuses directed at American Indian children
  • ICWA promotes heightened cultural considerations as well as the preservation of the American Indian tribes

State ICWA

State ICWA bills have been filed in both the House as HB 209 and Senate as SB 278 as mirror bills. We are continually engaging stakeholders on these bills, so further changes may be possible.

Purpose

  • To codify  and expand upon the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in New Mexico State law.
  • To  “ protect the best interest of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families…”

Intention

  • Center our work on the most impacted – Tribal Communities, Tribal Children & Families, and Tribal Leaders & ICWA Workers
  • Not to seek approval on a pre-written bill,  to genuinely get input on what should be contained in a bill from Tribal Leaders and their Tribal ICWA Workers
  • Bill contains the provision of federal ICWA and other provisions Tribal Leaders and their ICWA workers felt were necessary.

Timeline

Context: 

  • 2015 New Mexico Tribal Indian Child Welfare Consortium (NMTIC) (a consortium comprising 20 Pueblos, 2 Apache Nations and Ramah Navajo), established and identified state ICWA on their strategic plan.  This group meets on a monthly basis and has done so  since it was established.

  • 2015 New Mexico Partners (NM Partners) was established. NM Partners is comprised of Navajo Nation Department of Social Services/ICWA, NMTIC, Administrative Office of the Courts/ICWA Court, New Mexico Tribal/State Judicial Consortium, the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department (NM CYFD), the Corrine Wolfe Children’s Law Center and hosted by Casey Family Programs Indian Child Welfare Program. The group identified state ICWA legislation in their strategic plan.  The group meets every quarter and has done so since it was established.

  • 2019 NM CYFD established a specialized ICWA Unit & 2nd Judicial District established ICWA Court

  • March 2020 CYFD enters a settlement agreement on the Kevin S. lawsuit. NM CYFD agreed to support passage of a SICWA in the terms of the agreement.

Formation of 2021 SICWA Bill

  • July 2020 a Core Group was formed with Navajo Nation ICWA and NMTIC at the center.  The Coalition to Stop Violence against Native Women (CSVANW) Bold Futures NM, and NM CYFD formed the rest of the working group.  

  • July 2020  NM CYFD and Navajo Nation (including NN ICWA, DFS Director, NN Department of Justice, and additional stakeholders)  met during a quarterly meeting where SICWA was discussed.  

  • August 2020 NMTIC and NN ICWA met; weekly meetings commenced to discuss SICWA related issues.

  • August 2020 NM Partners meeting (child welfare partners include: NN DSS/ICWA; NMTIC; ICWA Court; NM TSJC, NM CYFD and meetings hosted by Casey Family Programs-Indian Child Welfare Program) SICWA issues are discussed.

  • September 2020 Secretary Blalock sent all Tribal Governors and Presidents a letter in regards to SICWA. 

  • October 2020 NM CYFD Secretary Blalock and Director of Tribal Affairs Donalyn Sarracino presented on SICWA  to the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council. 

  • October 2020 Members of the SICWA Core Group presented on SICWA  legislation to the NM Tribal State Judicial Consortium (TSJC). 

  • November 2020 Secretary Blalock and Donalyn Sarracino  presented on SICWA  to the All Pueblo Council of Governors.

  • November 2020 Secretary Blalock sent all Tribal Governors and Presidents a letter regarding Tribal Consultation on SICWA.

  • December (7th, 11th & 12th) NM CYFD hosted Tribal Consultation 

  • Following these 3 days of Tribal Consultation, information was sent to Legislative Counsel Services (LCS) to start drafting a bill based on the ideas and feedback from tribal leaders, their representatives, and other stakeholders
  • January 14, 2021 The SICWA Core Group received the initial draft of SICWA legislation from LCS.

  • January 15, 2021 Secretary Blalock sent all Tribal Governors and Presidents a letter regarding the receipt of initial SICWA draft and Tribal Consultation. 

  • January 20, 2021 NM CYFD hosted additional Tribal Consultation regarding SICWA legislation specifically on the drafted bill. 

  • January 28, 2021 SICWA legislation was  filed and identified as House Bill 209 (HB 209).  HB209 was assigned to two (2) House committees: State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs; and Health and Human Services.

  • February 1, 2021 SICWA legislation was filed and identified as Senate Bill 278. Senate Bill 278 was assigned to three (3) Senate committees: Indian, Rural and Cultural Affairs; Judiciary; and Finance.

  • January 28, 2021 Secretary Blalock sent a letter to all Tribal Governors and Presidents regarding HB209. 

  • February 8, 2021 Navajo Nation submitted  written comments to NM CYFD on HB209. 

  • February 8, 2021 HB209 was heard in its first House committee. The bill passed unanimously. Governor Talachy and former Governor Vigil served as experts and several tribes sent representatives to share support for the bill in public comment. There were no tribes in opposition. 

  • February 9, 2021 SB 278 was heard in its first Senate committee with amendments. Both the amendments and the bill passed unanimously. Governor Talachy and former Governor Vigil served as experts and several tribes sent representatives to share support for their bill in public comment. There were no tribes in opposition. 

  • February 23, 2021 a committee substitute for HB209 was filed based on requested changes from Navajo Nation, Laguna Pueblo, points raised in the Fiscal Impact Report, and feedback from other tribal representatives and stakeholders.

  • February 25, 2021 the committee substitute, materials explaining changes, updates on the bills, and more were shared with all tribal leaders and additional representatives. 

  • February 26, 2021, the committee substitute for HB209 was passed unanimously out of committee.

Why This Matters

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