Court Improvement
for Child Welfare: Opportunities,
Innovation, & Strategies
National Council of Juvenile and
Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ)
The VISION is for a society in which every
family and child has access to fair, equal and
timely justice.
The MISSION is to provide all judges, courts
and related agencies involved with juvenile,
family and domestic violence cases with the
knowledge and skills to improve the lives of the
families and children who seek justice.
Casey Indian Child Welfare
Programs
 Child
welfare services, with an emphasis on
cultural relevance and community ownership
 Resource
development to help create
sustainable funding for tribal child welfare
systems
 Infrastructure
tools and systems, such as
human resources, administration, and fiscal
management
A Different Approach…
“We acknowledge the enduring impact of the
past on all of your lives, and we are
committed to taking a new path, one of
respect and humility… For we know that
unless we can work together to protect and
nurture all of America's children, we as a
country will never be fully successful.” Shay Bilchik
Promoting a Paradigm Shift
“Some state court systems are beginning
to recognize that tribal courts can and
should be important partners in the
administration of justice in this country...
tribal courts are being recognized for their
often innovative and effective operations.”
- Chief Judge Theresa Pouley
Resolution in Support of
Tribal Courts
WHEREAS, the National Council of Juvenile and
Family Court Judges acknowledges that the tribal
courts have historically not been regarded as equal
in status with the state courts and that, as a result, the
tribal courts and the children and families served by
the tribal courts have been denied many of the
resources available to the state courts; and
WHEREAS, the National Council, in serving children
and families, recognizes that tribal and state courts
are equal and parallel justice systems; and
Best Practices Across the Nation

Multi-Tribal and State/County Court Collaboration

Ongoing and meaningful discussion/work groups

Vision for 100% ICWA State Court Compliance

ICWA adopted into state law in its entirety

Developing strong working relationships and
strategizing for better outcomes for children
INDIGENOUS PERMANENCY
Judge Anita Fineday
Managing Director
AS TRIBAL PEOPLE WE HAVE OUR OWN UNIQUE
CULTURE AND CONTEXT FOR TAKING CARE OF THEIR
CHILDREN THAT WAS SUCCESSFUL FOR CENTURIES
BEFORE CONTACT
Tribal Court Proceedings
Based Upon Lessons from Elders

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We do not believe in terminating parental
rights-it is not our way.
It has always been our way to take in
children.
We do not wear black robes as tribal court
judges: You do not want to look like the
people whom took everything away from
us.
Suspension of Parental Rights

Just one example of codifying tradition.

Each tribe will be different in the way
these issues are addressed.
BEST INTERESTS
OF THE TRIBE

The ability of the tribe and its members to
provide for the continuation of the tribe’s
culture, language, history, religion,
traditions and values through its children if
those children are taken away and not
taught these things throughout their daily
lives.
BEST INTERESTS OF THE
TRIBE



The ability of the Tribe to continue as a
viable cultural entity throughout their daily
lives.
The ability of the Tribe to continue as a
viable cultural entity will be hindered by
the loss of its children.
Every child is a gift from the creator and is
viewed by the Tribe as crucial to the future
of the tribe as a whole.
Customary Adoptions



More than 300 customary adoptions
completed in White Earth Tribal Court
Customary adoptions now recognized by
state statutes in CA and WA.
Momentum is building towards wide
acceptance of customary adoption as a
preferred permanency placement for wide
population.
Gila River Indian Community
Children’s Court
Judge Kami Hart
Model Court Lead Judge
A Model of Creative
Problem-Solving

Support from Leadership by Resolution

Convening a collaborative group

Developing Priorities
Goals to Improve
Child Welfare
First year



Create a CASA Program
Research Family Group Decision Making
Implement best practices in child welfare-removal
Second Year

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Expansion continued creation of CASA Program
Research Family Drug Court
Implement best practices in child welfare permanency
Accomplishments



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Cross site visits
Created CASA Program
Starting a Family Drug Court pilot
program, granted a FDC grant
Established relationships
Federal/State/Tribal Forum


Created ICWA subcommittee
Established goals
– Statewide ICWA Conference
– Created a workgroup to develop ICWA
Resource Guidelines
– Created a workgroup to develop collaborative
efforts/relationships between the tribes and
state
Innovation & Opportunity
Gina Jackson
Model Court Liaison
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas
Model Court
Mississippi Band of Choctaw
Indians Model Court
Yurok Tribal Model Court
NCJFCJ Model Courts
► Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of
TX
►Austin, Texas
►Baltimore, Maryland
►Charles County, Maryland
►Chicago, Illinois
►Dallas, Georgia
►Des Moines, Iowa
►Gila River Indian Community
►Hattiesburg, Mississippi
►Honolulu, Hawaii
►Howell, Michigan
►Kentucky Statewide
►Lake Charles, Louisiana
►Las Vegas, Nevada
► Los Angeles, California
►MS Band of Choctaw
►Nashville, Tennessee
►Newark, New Jersey
►New Orleans, Louisiana
►New York City, NY (statewide)
►Omaha, Nebraska
►Portland, Oregon
►Prince George County,
Maryland
►San Jose California
►Seattle, Washington
►Yurok Tribe, California
*Senior Model Courts: Cincinnati, Charlotte,
Indianapolis, Reno, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Utah; and
Tucson, and Washington DC.
Court Improvement Program
(CIP)
“Meaningful and ongoing
collaboration with child welfare
and where applicable, tribes.”
Confederated Tribes of Salish and
Kootenai, Pokagan Band of Potawatomi,
Navajo Nation, White Earth, Washoe Tribe,
Nooksack, & Pascua Yaqui
Training and TA Network
National Resource Center on Legal and Judicial
Issues
(National Council of Juvenile and Family Court
Judges, National Center for State Courts, American
Bar Association)
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NRC4Tribes
Some reflections
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Creative problem-solving
It’s all about relationships
Systems don’t collaborate, people do
“It’s about our children and our cultures. If we
listen to our young people they will lift us out of
darkness.”
-Judge Deloresa Cadiente Former Chief Justice
of CCTHITA
Thank you!
Gina Jackson
National Council of Juvenile
and Family Court Judges
(775) 784-7040
[email protected]
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The Next Generation: Moving Model Courts Forward