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Prior to the founding of Hobbs Straus, Jerry Straus was lead Washington, D.C. counsel in the first large scale case for the restoration of historic Indian land – the restoration of the 48,000 acre Blue Lake lands to the Taos Pueblo.

General Memorandum 16-038

General Memorandum 16-038
Indian Child Welfare Act Proceedings Final Rule; June 23 Webinar to be Held

On June 14, 2016, the Department of Interior published its Final Rule on Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Proceedings in the FEDERAL REGISTER. The rule addresses state court implementation of ICWA in Indian child welfare proceedings and the required state maintenance of ICWA records. This is a major development toward achieving consistent, uniform, and timely compliance with ICWA, a statute designed in the words of a House Committee report (95-1386) to "protect the rights of the Indian child as an Indian and the rights of the Indian community and tribe in retaining its children in its society". The Final Rule takes effect December 12, 2016, providing time for state courts and agencies to make any necessary changes for implementation.

The Department of Interior (DOI) published ICWA Guidelines in February 2015 but upon the recommendations from tribes and tribal organizations that binding regulations would be more effective, DOI drafted proposed regulations. More than 2,100 written comments were filed regarding the proposed regulations; oral comments were also provided in meetings, hearings, and consultation sessions. DOI now intends to issue updated Guidelines to conform to the Final Rule and will offer regional training sessions and webinars to state courts and agencies.

The lengthy Final Rule provides clarity regarding numerous matters including: identification of whether a child is Indian in the earliest states of proceedings; uniform requirements for notice to parents and tribes in involuntary proceedings; standards regarding denial to transfer cases to tribal court; expert qualified witness criteria; placement preferences for foster and adoptive care; rights of adult adoptees to information from the state; emergency proceedings; and clarity regarding what some courts have deemed the "existing Indian Family exception".

June 23 Webinar/ Explanatory Materials. The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) will hold a webinar on the new regulations on Thursday, June 23, 2016, at 12:30 p.m. Pacific/3:30 p.m. Eastern time. NICWA and the Native American Rights Fund have jointly prepared the following document explaining some of the key provisions of the Final Rule:
I:\NICWA\ICWA regs and guidance\ICWA regs summary from NIWA NARF doc.pdf

Below is a copy of the Final Rule and several related documents prepared by DOI:

I:\NICWA\ICWA regs and guidance\ICWA Final Rule June 14 2016.pdf
I:\NICWA\ICWA regs and guidance\ICWA final rule FAQs June 2016.pdf
I:\NICWA\ICWA regs and guidance\ICWA final rule Tribal Leader Letter June 2016.pdf
I:\NICWA\ICWA regs and guidance\ICWA final rule State Governor letter June 2016.pdf
I:\NICWA\ICWA regs and guidance\ICWA regs Summary doc.pdf

Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding the Final Rule for Indian Child Welfare Act Proceedings.

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Inquiries may be directed to:
Karen Funk (

Available Documents for Download ( any referenced attachments are included in download )