Hale fights to ensure Indian Child Welfare Act law is followed by new Arizona Department of Child Safety
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX - Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), worked with Sen. Carlyle Begay, D-Ganado (District 7), and Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills (District 23), to ensure language requiring compliance with the federal Indian Child Welfare Act was added to recently passed legislation that will create and fund a new state child safety department.
“Unfortunately, tribal interests were not adequately represented in the final legislation,” Hale said of the workgroup efforts to create the bills considered during the special session on child safety this week. “It was important that we make it clear that the new state department respect and follow the federal law that protects the rights of Native American children and their family.”
“The federal law requires that, when Native American children are removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, efforts must be made to allow the children to live with their extended family members. If that is not possible, they should be placed with other Native American families. It is important that this law not just be acknowledged but that the state child safety department work closely with Native American Nations to facilitate intensive efforts to make sure it is actually implemented. Indian children in foster care or who are adopted out of the child-welfare system need to be with families that will give them an understanding of their Native American heritage and culture. Our traditional ways should remain a part of these children’s upbringing. These amendments will help make sure that happens,” Hale said.
Begay was successful in getting language added to the bill in the Senate, and Hale worked with Kavanagh to pass an amendment adding the same language to the House bill. The amendment requires the director of the Department of Child Safety to ensure the department’s compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 and strengthen relationships with tribal child safety programs.
The amendment also added a tribal representative to the Child Safety Oversight Committee. Additionally, it will require the Community Advisory Committee, a group of stakeholders charged with advising the new department’s director, to collaborate with tribal leaders. This will help ensure Native American communities have a voice in the department’s administration.