Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson voices support for the Indian Child Welfare Act
Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson joined other Utah leaders in supporting the Indian Child Welfare Act on Saturday.
The law, often called ICWA, was passed in 1978 to help prevent extensive forced separation of Native children from their families and communities and is now being challenged in the Supreme Court. The case has implications not only for Native children but tribal sovereignty and federal Indian law, which recognizes “Indian” as a legal status based on treaties between the U.S. and tribal governments.
Opponents of the law claim it places tribal interests over children’s best interests and is racially discriminatory, while supporters say it’s essential for child welfare and promotes efforts to keep children close to their families, communities and culture.
Prior to the ICWA, Native children were removed from their families and communities at a staggering rate—80% of Native families living on reservations lost at least one child to the foster care system, totaling to about one third of total Native children. 85% of those children were placed outside family and community circles, even when willing and able family members were available.
There is widespread support for codifying the Indian Child Welfare Act into Utah law, including from all eight of Utah’s federally recognized tribes and the Utah Native Legislative Liaison Committee. The Committee voted unanimously in November to introduce a bill about the act in the 2023 legislative session.