Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978: An Analysis of Policy Implementation

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The state of California is home to 109 federally recognized tribes, 100 tribal reservations, and roughly 12% of the nation’s total Native American/Alaskan Native population, which is approximately 720,000 people (California Courts, n.d.-b). California leads the nation in ICWA appeals, accounting for 152 of 214 (71%) ICWA appeals in 2017 (Daly, 2018) and 125 of 206 (61%) ICWA appeals in 2018 (Fort, 2019). To understand how the Indian Child Welfare Act could be implemented more effectively, Indian Child Welfare Act policy implementation is explored through the analysis of California appellate court cases and the formation of common themes that emerged from analysis of each appellate court case. After common themes emerged, thematic analysis was conducted to identify, analyze, and interpret the meanings of the collected data. The findings suggest street-level bureaucrats struggled with implementing several provisions of ICWA such as inquiry, notice, and active efforts in addition to multiple tenets of ICWA such as affirmative and continuing duty and knowing or having reason to know a child and/or a relative of the child may have Native American/Alaskan Native ancestry. Street-level bureaucrats also struggled with simplifications (discretionary decision-making), routines (discretionary behaviors), and completing ICWA forms when implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The implications of this study indicate areas of improvement for policy implementation such as an oversight board, the development of formalized practices and protocols, trainings on simplifications (discretionary decision-making), and research on the sources of the problem hindering successful ICWA implementation for each county (backward mapping).
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Public Administration
Public Administration, Social Work