What is ICWA?


The Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) is a federal law enacted in 1978 in response to the child welfare policies that negatively impacted Indian families throughout the United States.  The United States government, over the years, enacted laws and policies that broke apart Indian families and tribes devastating the cultural heritage of several generations of Indian tribes.  The federal law was passed to protect Indian children who are currently enrolled in a federally recognized tribe or who may be eligible for enrollment.  The law’s purpose is to have Indian children as soon as they are removed from their homes to be placed within their tribe, if possible, so they continue to be raised within their culture.

ICWA specifically states the Act does not apply in divorce and custody cases involving the two biological parents.

The Act may apply in adoption cases or where a child is removed from an Indian home through a CHIPS, or Child in Need of Protection or Services.  Tribal courts may intercede in these cases.

More information about ICWA and the Minnesota legislation enacted since ICWA can be found at the following links:



Experienced family law attorney Jessica L. Sterle has years of experience in child custody and parenting time cases.  She can be reached at (218) 722-2655.

Jessica Sterle