New Findings in Tribal Child Welfare Study

09/17/15 01:00:am

Press Release

September 17, 2015

New Findings in Tribal Child Welfare Study

The Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and the National Indian Child Welfare Association announce the release of the graphical summary, “Protecting Our Children Through Tribal Law: A Review of 100+ Tribal Child Welfare Codes (Part II).” The second set of qualitative and quantitative analyses from an ongoing project on tribal child welfare policy, Part II answers the question “How are tribes asserting their sovereignty to protect their children?” in the areas of child welfare jurisdiction, child abuse reporting, paternity, and tribal-state child welfare relations.


  • To help protect children from abuse and neglect, 70% of the tribal codes make specific requirements for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect.
  • To ensure paternal rights and responsibilities, 60% of tribal codes create processes for establishing or acknowledging paternity.
  • Whereas the Indian Child Welfare Act acknowledges that tribes may take jurisdiction over their children, 61% of tribal codes assert explicit jurisdiction over tribal citizen children on and off the reservation.

Researchers reviewed 107 publicly available, U.S.-based tribal child welfare codes representing tribes with populations ranging from 50 to 18,000 citizens. Researchers sought out the most up-to-date tribal child welfare codes available for each tribe, reporting that approximately 45% of the 107 codes were amended after 2000. The research team analyzed over 100 variables on the topics of culture, jurisdiction, tribal-state relationships, child abuse reporting, paternity, foster care, termination of parental rights, and adoption. A more detailed report on this study will be released later this fall. For more information about this project and its findings please contact the Native Nations Institute: Mary Beth Jäger (Citizen Potawatomi) jager(at)

For more findings, access Part II and Part I.

Adrian (Addie) Tobin Smith, Government Affairs Staff Attorney, National Indian Child Welfare Association
Mary Beth Jäger (Citizen Potawatomi), Native Nations Institute, University of Arizona
Rachel Starks (Zuni/Navajo), Native Nations Institute, University of Arizona

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