Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.
Tribal child welfare has a unique history. In the past century, thousands of Indian children were forcibly removed from their tribes and placed in boarding schools where forced assimilation left them unable to speak their Native language or participate in their culture. Indian children grew to adulthood without the benefit of their families or tribes. This has contributed to a significant distrust among tribes and states that continues to affect AI/AN families.1 It is estimated that about one half of the Native American population currently alive were not raised by their parents or were not within their tribe due to the historic practices of removal and forced assimilation.2
Today, many tribes have some form of child protection services and have their own tribal codes, court systems, and child welfare programs. In other cases, tribes receive funding and services from states or counties.3 For non-tribal welfare workers, it is important to learn and respect AI/AN cultural practices in order to provide successful child welfare services to this population.
Since the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in 1978, tribes have a greater voice in child welfare cases, and federal standards have been established for placement of Indian children in foster and/or adoptive homes, and handling of child abuse and neglect.4
Child Welfare Information Gateway
A service of the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Gateway provides access to publications, websites, databases, and online learning tools for improving child welfare practice.
Foster Care Program Development — Recruitment and Retention of Native Resource Families (PDF, 1 page)
This resource discusses the ICWA and placement of AI/AN children in foster care.
Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
This Bureau of Indian Affairs resource discusses the ICWA, current events and news, resources, and frequently asked questions around the ICWA.
National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA)
The NICWA is a national non-profit organization with comprehensive resources on American Indian child welfare focused on tribal capacity and child abuse and neglect.
Tribal–State Relations in Child Welfare (PDF, 15 pages)
This issue brief highlights the history of child welfare in relation to AI/AN children and families and looks at ways that states, tribes, and related jurisdictions can work together more effectively to meet the goals of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Other Resources on this Topic
Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people
Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.
Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.
Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.
Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).