Permanency Outcomes and Disproportionality of Native American Children in Los Angeles County 40 Years after the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978

Purpose: The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 established certain standards for the placement of Native American/Indian children in foster care and adoptive homes. The goal was to prevent the breakup of Indian families (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services May, 2019.) This research study examined the current state of disproportionality and permanency outcomes for Native American children in Los Angeles county. Permanency in this study refers to a permanent home for a child who has entered the foster care system. Permanency can be achieved through reunification with a parent or parents, adoption, guardianship, or an alternative permanent placement. Hypothesis: Native American children in Los Angeles county achieve permanency at a rate that is disproportionate compared to the overall permanency rate of children in Los Angeles county. Methods: The California Child Welfare Indicators Project (CCWIP) gathers data on Indian/Native children in out of home care in the county of Los Angeles, other counties in California, and California as a whole. The CCWIP is a collaborative venture between the University of California at Berkeley and the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and provides a comprehensive source of child welfare administrative data. It serves as a model for open-data and information dissemination because the data is available to the public through the CCWIP website. (University of California at Berkeley School of Social Welfare, n.d.) Data for this research project was collected from the CCWIP website for the three years of 1998, 2008, and 2018. This project also looked at historical data available to the public from government hearings held in 1977. Results: My research showed there is a lack of historical data available specifically about the experiences of Native American children in Los Angeles county from 1978 when ICWA was passed to 1998 when California began systematically collecting information and entering it into the Child Welfare Services / Case Management System (CMS/CWS) system. Data collected in the past 20 years shows Native American children continue to be placed in foster care at a disproportionate rate. Native American children are more likely to be placed with relatives or in Native American foster homes now compared to when ICWA was passed. Discussion: Social workers in the field of child welfare can use findings from this research to inform themselves about the history of Native American children in foster care and the adversity these children and families have faced in the past. These findings highlight the barriers child welfare social workers will face working with the Native American community due to the history of Native American children being placed in care at disproportionate rates.