PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, alongside 22 other attorneys general, submitted a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.

Over 40 years ago, this federal act was passed by Congress in response to the increasing number of Indian children who had been taken away from their families. ICWA was meant to protect tribal families and children, keeping them connected to their cultural identity and community.

According to a statement released by the Oregon Department of Human Services, the constitutionality of the act will be challenged before the Supreme Court this November during the Haaland v. Brackeen case.

Oregon Legislature passed the Oregon Indian Child Welfare Act, an act that parallels the federal ICWA, in 2020. The state-based law also recognizes the unique needs of tribes throughout Oregon.

“Knowing that the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing arguments against the Indian Child Welfare Act in November, my concern goes beyond the borders of the State of Oregon,” Adam Becenti, the ODHS Office of Tribal Affairs director, said.

“If it is ruled unconstitutional, it will be detrimental to Tribal sovereignty with lasting impact to Tribal families and communities across the country,” Becenti stated. “As the director of the ODHS Office of Tribal Affairs I express gratitude for Attorney General Rosenblum’s position and encourage others to weigh in to help prevent the roll back of 44 years of progress, and to ensure Indian Child Welfare Act protections for all Tribal families living in the United States.”

ODHS Child Welfare Division Director Rebecca Jones Gaston says the Child Welfare Division Vision for Transformation is committed to meeting the needs of Oregon tribes. 

“When we do this, it helps keep Tribal children in their families and communities who have always had the wisdom of how to raise them,” she said. “This can be seen in Klamath and Lake Counties where our collaborative work with the Klamath Tribes to keep Tribal families together has decreased the number of Klamath Tribal children with open child welfare cases from 54 in 2017 to 22 in 2021.”