The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) will create a menu of online interactive tools and services, accessible on www.nicwa.org. The network, NICWAnet, will provide access to information, training, registries of families and attorneys, and networking opportunities to the approximately 20,000 people nationwide who work in Indian child welfare, including 2,000 tribal social workers, state/county social workers, adoption attorneys, judges and Native American families. By bringing these resources together, and making them web-accessible, NICWA will dramatically improve the capabilities of those who work to improve the lives of Indian children. The network will make a 4,500-volume of documents relating to Indian child welfare practice available online, as well as extensive statistical information on tribes and Indian children. NICWA will also provide training on the network, facilitate collaboration on cases, and provide access to extensive resources such as a registry of Indian families willing to adopt or provide foster care, a directory of social workers and attorneys, and downloadable forms, notices, and form letters to help case workers.
Indian children in the United States are placed in substitute care by state agencies at nearly twice the rate of other ethnic groups. The rate of abuse or neglect also exceeds that of other groups. Currently, there are an estimated 50,000 Indian children in foster care, and approximately 5,000 children eligible for, but not currently in, foster care or adopted. Adoptions of Indian children are guided by the Indian Child Welfare Act (1978). The Act has helped keep Indian children in the Indian community; unfortunately, the law has been inconsistently applied and enforced. Many who work with Native children lack knowledge about the law. NICWA plays a pivotal role in providing information on the Law, but the current process of faxing and mailing documents is often slow and cumbersome. In cases involving vulnerable children, time can be a life- saving matter. The ability to access NICWA resources online will streamline the process, and will alleviate many of the current barriers social workers and advocates face in their endeavor to improve the lives of Indian children.
NICWA's partners include the Child Welfare League of America and Casey Family Programs.