The Oregon Indian Child Welfare Act (ORICWA) represents the culmination of a lengthy cooperative effort between the Oregon state government and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR). Originally passed in 2020, the law has already been amended by lawmakers. Those hoping to adopt in Oregon need to understand the implications of both the original ORICWA and the 168-page bill that amended the law.
The goal of ORICWA is both to help bring Oregon more closely into alignment with the 1978 federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and its 2016 updates, as well as to reduce the number of Native American children who enter the foster care system or wind up involved the state’s child welfare system. What were the changes made to ORICWA, and how might they impact prospective adoptive parents in Oregon?
ORICWA affects the placement and adoption of Native American kids
One of the most important aspects of the changes to ORICWA is the focus on determining when tribal jurisdiction applies and involving tribal authorities in major decisions when possible. State authorities and private adoption agencies will now need to notify the Department of Human Services when there is an adoption request involving a Native American child.
There are also placement rules that will apply in adoption situations. Parents who currently do not have custody of their children can take action to prevent their adoption in some scenarios. Especially when Native American parents do not consent to the adoption and face the involuntary termination of their parental rights, ORICWA and ICWA can help them assert their rights.
There are also counseling rules in place now to prevent agencies from lying to or tricking desperate parents into voluntarily giving up their rights. If adoptions do move forward, the tribe can potentially play a role. They can approve someone to serve as an adoptive parent in line with the tribe’s customs.
What will this mean for you?
As someone hoping to adopt or currently fostering a child, the changes made to ORICWA could affect your options for expanding your family. Those who hope to adopt a child with Native American heritage and local tribal connections may need to take extra steps to legally adopt the child they love.