After a multi-year tribal governmental effort to make this act a reality, Governor Chris Gregoire has signed the Washington State Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA) into law.
According to reports, the WICWA has two main purposes.
First, it codifies into Washington law the main provisions of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). This helps to make sure that state courts, attorneys, and others in the state legal system incorporate ICWA protections for Indian children, families, and tribes into their everyday practice.
Second, WICWA clarifies how the federal law are to be implemented and its protections even expanded. Among the most meaningful additions are provisions which define important legal terms, such as “active efforts,” “best interests,” and “qualified expert witnesses,” and modifying the child placement preferences and improving procedures for identifying Indian children, including recognizing tribal decisions on citizenship as conclusive.
WICWA should help to advance the central goals of ICWA – keeping Indian families together and ensuring that child placements are with extended families or tribal citizens whenever possible.
Read the Act at Leg.wa.gov (use bill tracking function and search for Bill Number 5656).