Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

What You Will Find on This Website
Why Is This Toolkit Important?
Goals of AIE Toolkit Implementation
How to Use This Toolkit
How Can the AIE Toolkit Benefit My County?
Mutual Goals for Counties and Tribal Communities
Collaborating Organizations
Agencies with Training Resources
Contact Us


The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) provides the concepts, guidance, and action steps necessary for developing a programmatic infrastructure within a child welfare agency to improve outcomes for Native American and Alaska Native families and children in the child welfare system. The toolkit is designed to assist your county to advance child welfare practice and achieve compliance with the letter and spirit of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Before exploring the toolkit, we invite you to watch the 1-minute FACES video.

Recent federal legislation which strengthens the ICWA law of 1978 attests to the continued utility of this toolkit. Resources related to the new legislation are provided below for your reference. ICWA was further integrated into California's Division 31 regulations in 2016.

Tribal State Legislation, Regulations, ACLs & ACINs

State Legislation

  • Assembly Bill No. 3176
    AB 3176, Chapter 833, Statutes of 2018 Waldron. Existing federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), governs the proceedings for determining the placement of an Indian child when that child is removed from the custody of his or her parent or guardian.
  • Assembly Bill No. 1325
    AB 1325, Chapter 287, Statutes of 2009-2010 Cook. Tribal customary adoption. Existing federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act and state law govern the placement of children who are or who may be Indian children, as specified.
  • Assembly Bill No. 2417
    AB 2417, Cook. Tribal customary adoption.
    Existing law provides for tribal customary adoption as one placement option for Indian children. Existing law requires that, in all cases prior to final approval of the tribal customary adoptive placement, a state and federal criminal background check through the Department of Justice shall be conducted on the prospective tribal customary adoptive parents and on persons over 18 years of age residing in their household.
  • Assembly Bill No. 3047
    AB 3047, Daly. Court fees: waiver: Indian Child Welfare Act. This bill would waive the fee and renewal fee for filing pro hac vice when the applicant is an attorney representing a tribe in a child welfare matter under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.
  • AB 2418, Chapter 468, Statutes of 2010
    Fostering Connections to Success Act
  • AB 1325, Chapter 287, Statutes of 2009
    Indian Children
  • AB 770, Chapter 124, Statutes of 2009
    Tribal Customary Adoption
  • SB 703, Chapter 583, Statutes of 2007
    Negotiation of Title IV-E Agreements with Tribes
  • SB 678, Chapter 838, Statutes of 2006
    Placement of Children


  • ACL 14-15 (February 14, 2014)
    Federal Requirements for the Transfer of Indian Children to a Tribal Title IV-E Agency or an Indian Tribe with a Title IV-E Agreement
  • ACL 14-10 (January 31, 2014)
    Instructions for Completion of the Relative Assessment/Approval SOC Forms for a Tribally Approved Home
  • ACL 13-91 (November 1, 2013)
    After 18 Program (AB 12 Extended Foster Care) and Indian Non-Minor Dependents (NMDs) Covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
  • ACL 13-91 (November 1, 2013)
    After 18 Program (AB 12 Extended Foster Care) and Indian Non-Minor Dependents (NMDs) Covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
  • ACL 10-47
    Implementation of Tribal Customary Adoption Assembly Bill 1325 (Chapter 287, Statutes of 2009)
  • ACL 10-17 (March 24, 2010)
    Assembly Bill 1325, Chapter 287, Statutes of 2009, Tribal Customary Adoption
  • ACL 09-28 (June 4, 2009)
    Indian Child Welfare Act and Adoptions Forms, Processes and Standards
  • ACL 08-02 (January 28, 2008)
    Senate Bill (SB) 678, Chapter 838, Statutes of 2006, Indian Child Welfare Changes in State Law



In August 2019, the constitutionality of ICWA was reaffirmed, overturning the ruling in a Texas court that it was unconstitutional as a race law.

What You Will Find in this Toolkit

The ICWA Toolkit provides a structured compendium of resources designed to assist county administrators and staff to implement culturally appropriate practices for Native American and Alaska Native children participating in the child welfare system. Each category of tools addresses a specific phase of implementation. The implementation phases and other resources are noted in the menu box.

Why is this Toolkit Important?

The toolkit advances collaborative engagement with Tribes and Tribal communities in order to promote the culturally appropriate practice and effective case management that improve and enhance adherence to the requirements of ICWA. Four major issues are targeted:

  1. Proper Identification of Native American/Alaska Native Children
  2. Proper Placement of Native American/Alaska Native Children
  3. Disproportionate participation of Native American Children in California’s Child Welfare System
  4. Disparities in Access to Culturally Relevant Services


Goals of Toolkit Implementation

By improving proper identification and proper placement of Native American and Alaska Native children through collaboration with Tribes and Tribal communities, the toolkit promotes achievement of the following outcomes:

  • Reduce entries of Native American/Alaska Native children into the foster care system
  • Increase reunification of Native American/Alaska Native children
  • Decrease the length of stay of Native American/Alaska Native children in foster care
  • Decrease time to permanence for Native American/Alaska Native children

How to Use this Toolkit

The toolkit is composed of a set of categories that address specific phases of implementation. Administrators may choose to approach the categories in sequence or prioritize individual tools to suit the needs of their counties. The categories include:

  • Definitional Tools: Describe the purpose, approach, and logic models that define the inputs, outputs, and desired outcomes.
  • Engagement and Communication Tools: Provide guidance to leaders for engaging staff and stakeholders in integrated implementation efforts.
  • Assessment Tools: Allow systematic assessment of organizational readiness to implement the logic models.
  • Planning Tools: Assist counties and their partners to identify the sequencing of action steps and involvement of stakeholders for each phase of implementation.
  • Training, Coaching, and Transfer of Learning Tools: Include curricula and other resources that initiate, sustain, and refine beneficial child welfare practices.
  • Evaluation Tools: Describe how to collect and use data to monitor and improve implementation.

Technical assistance for county implementation is available.

How Can the Toolkit Benefit my County?

The toolkit is intended to simplify the achievement of ICWA compliance, improve outcomes, and advance the quality of child welfare practice for Native American families and children. The toolkit provides a comprehensive set of resources to integrate the work of county directors, managers, and supervisors. Tools are targeted to strengthen culturally appropriate inquiry and placement and enhance collaboration among counties, Tribal communities, and other stakeholders.

In addition to improving the services afforded to native children and families, implementation of the toolkit can result in multiple benefits to the operations and staff of county child welfare agencies.


Mutual Goals for Counties and Tribal Communities

Tribal communities, counties, and the State all desire to reduce the number of Native American children in the child welfare system. Culturally sensitive social work at the front end of a case can improve access to services that are responsive to the needs of Native American children and families, and result in an overall reduction in case management costs over time.

The ICWA Toolkit provides guidance to county agencies and individual child welfare staff for respectful and effective engagement with families and tribes. Resources are provided to reduce entries and re-entries and achieve desired federal outcomes concerning reunification, length of stay, and permanence. Successful outcomes are predicated on the importance of building collaborative relationships with tribes and tribal communities.

Flexibility for Implementation

The ICWA toolkit acknowledges local and regional differences within counties and provides support for addressing urban, rural, and reservation-based tribal communities.

Collaborating Organizations

Agencies with Training Resources

Tribal, regional, and state agencies provide a wide variety of training resources.


The Native American Enhancement Toolkit (NAE) is an effort of the California Disproportionality Project, a Breakthrough Series Collaborative (BSC) resourced through The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the California Department of Social ServicesCasey Family Programs, and the Stuart Foundation, in collaboration with the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Child and Family Policy Institute of California, the California Child Welfare Co-Investment Partnership, the California Social Work Education Center, and Tribal STAR. Participating Counties include Fresno, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, and San Bernardino.

Contact Us

CalSWEC In-Service Training Program: