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Navajo Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA) Program

Establishment & Program Background

Establishment and Background of ICWA:  The Indian Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978, P.L. 95-608 U.S.C. Section 1901-1963, was enacted by the U.S. Congress on November 09, 1978. “First, the Act was result of reports that; Indian children were more likely, 1 out of every 26, to be adopted; 82% of Indian children in placement were adopted by non-Indian families; 1 out of every 124 Indian children were in foster care in non-Indian foster homes or non-Indian institutions. These numbers showed the extremely high removal rate of Indian children. Second, the special relationship between the United States and the Indian Tribes; Federal Trust responsibility to Indian people is what prompted the establishment of these minimum Federal standards and safeguards governing the placement of Indian children.” (United States Congress, House of Representatives. Establishing Standards for the Placement of Indian Children in Foster or Adoptive Homes, to Prevent the Breakup of Indian Families… Ninety-Fifth Congress, on H.R. 12533… on July 24, 1978. Washington D.C., 1978.)

On May 13, 2020, the Health, Education and Human Services Committee (HEHSC) of the Navajo Nation Council approved the amendment of the Division of Social Services’ Navajo Indian Child Welfare Act Program’s Plan of Operation by Resolution HEHSC 0108-20.  This resulted in the program name change from Navajo Children & Family Services to Navajo Indian Child Welfare Act Program.

Mission & Goal


The Navajo ICWA Program was established to promote the stability and security of Navajo families by providing services to preserve and reunite Navajo families who are located off the reservation with their children who are subject to removal from their parents for placement in foster care or adoptive homes.  The Adoption Unit within in the NICWAP promotes the permanent placement of Native American children in Native American homes for the preservation of cultural identity.


To protect the best interest of Indian children…to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families with the opportunity to become permanent members of a family.  On a case by case basis, the ICWA Social Workers provide the following services, but not limited to:

  • Provide case management
  • Consultation, collaboration and coordination with state child welfare agencies and courts
  • Provide education on cultural teachings
  • Maintain Intergovernmental Agreements (IGA) with the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah
  • Advocate for Navajo children and their families


Navajo Nation Locations