Children's Administration, Department of Social and Health Services
Children's Administration, Department of Social and Health Services
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Indian Child Welfare Manual

The following definitions are terms used in the Indian Child Welfare Manual.

ACT” means the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. 1901, et seq., or ICWA.

ACTIVE EFFORTS” consist of taking the client through the steps of the plan rather than requiring that the plan be performed on its own. “Passive efforts,” on the other hand, consist of merely drawing up a plan and requiring the client to use his or her own resources to bring it to fruition. A court will make a finding of active efforts on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the parent’s circumstances. The court may consider the detailed testimony of the social worker in determining whether active efforts have been followed. The testimony should demonstrate that the social worker has been in contact with the parent, that services have been offered, provide a detailed description of the services and progress, if any, and indicate whether the parent has demonstrated any interest in remedying the problem areas.

BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS” (BIA) means, within the Department of the Interior, the principal agency of the federal government responsible for the administration of federal programs for federally recognized Indian Tribes, and for promoting Indian self-determination. The Bureau has a trust responsibility emanating from treaties and other agreements with native groups. The BIA (as of 1998) provides federal services to approximately 1.2 million Indians and Alaska Natives who are members of more than 557 federally recognized Indian Tribes in the 48 contiguous United States and Alaska. The Bureau administers 43,450,267 acres of tribally-owned land, 10,183,530 acres of individually-owned land, and 417,225 acres of federally-owned land which is held in trust status or Tribes.

CANADIAN FIRST NATIONS INDIAN CHILD” means an unmarried person under the age of 18 who is a member of a treaty Tribe, Metis community, or a non-status Indian community from Canada.

CANADIAN RESERVE” is the equivalent of the term “Indian Reservation” used in the United States.

CENTENNIAL ACCORD” means an agreement, signed on August 4, 1989, establishing a government-to-government relationship between the State of Washington and the federally recognized Indian Tribes in Washington State. The agreement introduces a framework to build more positive relationships in the resolution of disagreements and provides a process for working on issues of mutual concern.

CHILD CUSTODY PROCEEDING” means the term or terms that apply to domestic relations proceedings in which an Indian child is placed in the custody of DSHS, or a child placing agency or in which a placement has been requested:

  • Out-of-Home placement - An action placing an Indian child in a foster family home or group care facility or placement in a home, other than that of the child's parent, guardian, or legal custodian, not required to be licensed under 74.15 RCW and the parent or Indian custodian cannot have the child returned upon demand, but where parental rights have not been terminated.
  • RCW 74.14C.010
  • Termination of parental rights - an action resulting in the legal end to the parent-child relationship.
  • Foster or relative care when the parental rights have been terminated - the temporary placement of an Indian child in a foster home or institution after the termination of parental rights, but prior to or in lieu of adoptive placement.
  • Adoptive placement - the permanent placement of an Indian child for adoption, including an action resulting in a final decree of adoption.

"CHILD IN NEED OF SERVICES" (CHINS) does not apply in a dependency proceeding. See the CA Case Services Policy Manual, Appendix A.

"CHILD IN NEED OF SERVICES (CHINS) PETITION" - See the CA Case Services Policy Manual, Appendix A.

CHILD PLACING AGENCY” (CPA) means an agency that places a child or children for temporary care, continued care, or for adoption.

CHILD PROTECTIVE TEAM” (CPT) means a team of professional and community volunteers appointed by CA to review placement decisions, child abuse and neglect investigations, and other matters as requested by the department. A CA Regional Administrator may designate a LICWAC to serve as a CPT if it has appropriate professional representation.

CHILDREN’S ADMINISTRATION” (CA) means the organizational entity within the Department of Social and Health Services that provides child protective, child welfare, and related services. CA includes the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the Division of Licensed Resources (DLR), and the Division of Program and Policy Development.

“CHILD'S TRIBE,” means:

  • For aCanadian First Nations child, a First Nation, Tribe, Metis community, or non-status Indian community from Canada in which the child is a member.
  • For an “Recognized Indian Child,” a non-federally recognized Tribe in which the child is a member or is eligible for membership.

COMPELLING REASON” means, for purposes of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), a factor in case planning that presents an unusual circumstance that makes necessary a decision which would not normally be made for a child or family. “Compelling Reason” includes, but is not necessary limited to, circumstances in which a child:

  1. Is older and is opposed, following a discussion with the social worker of the alternatives, to adoption as a permanent plan;
  2. Has significant ties to the child’s family which are positive and expected to be on-going and would be disrupted by termination of parental rights;
  3. Is in placement for reasons other than abuse, neglect, abandonment, or no parent able or willing to care for the child (e, g., children in care due to the risk they pose to others, due to behavioral management issues, etc.);
  4. Does not have a permanent placement resource identified and for whom there is significant risk that an adoptive resource will not be found; or
  5. Has other unique situations described in the ISSP by the social worker that constitute compelling reasons not to file a petition to terminate parental rights.

CONCURRENT JURISDICTION” means a situation in which two different courts, such as tribal and state, have the power and authority to deal with the same subject matter or case.

CONTACT PERSON” means a person(s) designated by the child’s Tribe for initial contact.

COURT OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION” means a court that has the authority to hear and decide a particular case.

"CULTURAL COMPETENCE" means a set of behaviors and attitudes that enables individuals working with a child or family to learn about or recognize the cultural context of a situation and to integrate that knowledge into an action.

"CULTURAL CONSULTANTS" means culturally competent individuals recognized by the department and/or client as a resource to help assess and/or resolve problems relating to cultural issues. The person is not necessarily a qualified expert. See the definition of “qualified expert.”

"CULTURAL DIVERSITY" means the distinguishable differences in life styles, values, traditions, religions, etc.

"CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE" means a pattern of behaviors that incorporates and acknowledges the importance of cultures (competence), the assessment of cross-culture relations (literate), vigilance towards the dynamics that result from cultural difference (effective), the expansion of cultural knowledge and the adaptation of services to meet culturally unique needs.

"CULTURE" means the integrated pattern of human behavior including thought, communication, actions, customs, beliefs, values, institutions, of a racial, ethnic, religious or social group.

"CUSTODIAN" means the person or entity that has the legal right to the custody of the child. RCW 13.32A.030

DEPARTMENT” means the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).

DILIGENT EFFORTS” means case activity marked by careful and persevering attention to detail.

DISPOSITION” means the order of a Juvenile or Family Court that determines a treatment plan for a child and family after allegations of abuse or neglect have been founded by the court. The plan includes the placement of the child, required supervision, and services for the child and parents.

DISPOSITIONAL HEARING” means the Juvenile or Family Court hearing during which parties present information and arguments concerning proposed disposition orders. The Dispositional Hearing may immediately follow or be held separately from the Fact-Finding Hearing.

DOCUMENTED EFFORTS” means a written account of compliance efforts in the case file. Documentation includes:

  • Contacts with relatives, representatives of the child’s Tribe, and other persons who might have relevant information;
  • Names, phone numbers, and addresses of persons contacted;
  • Summaries of the nature and content of the contacts;
  • Copies of any correspondence; and
  • Compilation of a family Ancestry Chart reflecting all information reasonably available through such contacts.

DOMICILE,” for adults, is established by the physical presence in a place where the person intends to remain permanently or indefinitely. “Domicile” is not necessarily synonymous with “residence.” A person may have only one domicile but may have more than one residence. The domicile of the child’s parents determines the child’s domicile. In the case of a child born to unmarried parents, the child’s domicile is that of the child’s mother. Usually, the child’s Tribe determines the child’s domicile based on the domicile of the child’s parent(s).

DURESS” means unlawful pressure on a person to do what the person would not otherwise do. It may include force, threats of violence, physical restraint, or mental or psychological pressure.

ELIGIBLE FOR MEMBERSHIP IN AN INDIAN TRIBE” means a determination made by a Tribe that an individual person is a member or eligible for membership in the Tribe. Only the Tribe may make this determination.

ENROLLMENT IN AN INDIAN TRIBE” means a determination made by a Tribe that a person is listed on the enrollment register for the Tribe. Enrollment may not be necessary for a person to be eligible for membership in the Tribe.

"ETHNIC" means a group designated by customs, characteristics, language, common history, and/or racial affiliation.

EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION” means a particular court is the only court that has the power and authority to hear and decide a particular type of case.

EXPERT QUALIFIED IN THE PLACEMENT OF INDIAN CHILDREN IN NON-INDIAN HOMES” means a person with specific experience in helping Indian children, and the non-Indian foster or adoptive families with whom the children have been placed, to cope with and adjust to the social and psychological issues associated with such placements.

EXTENDED FAMILY MEMBER” means an individual, defined by the law or custom of the child's Tribe, as a relative of the child. If the child’s Tribe does not identify such individuals by law or custom, the term means an adult who is the Indian child's grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece, nephew, first or second cousin, or step-parent, even following termination of the marriage.

FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED INDIAN CHILD” means, under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), an unmarried person who is under the age of eighteen and who is either:

  1. A member of a federally recognized Indian Tribe, including Eskimo, Aleut, or other Alaska Native; or
  2. Eligible for membership in a federally recognized Indian Tribe, including Eskimo, Aleut, or other Alaska Native, and is the biological child of a member of an Indian child.

25 U. S. C. 1903(4)

FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED INDIAN TRIBE” means any Indian Tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community of Indians recognized as eligible for the services provided to Indians by the Secretary of the Interior because of their status as Indians, including any Alaska Native Village.

25 U. S. C. 1903(8)

FOSTER CARE” means placement of a child by the department or a licensed child placing agency in a home or facility licensed pursuant to chapter 74.15 RCW or in a home or facility that is not required to be licensed pursuant to chapter 74.15 RCW.

FULL FAITH AND CREDIT” means a provision in the U. S. Constitution requiring all states to recognize and enforce, in certain situations, laws and court decisions from other states or courts. ICWA requires all states to extend that recognition and enforcement to all tribal laws, customs, and decisions relating to child custody matters.

GROUP CARE” means the provision of a safe, healthful environment for youth in a 24-hour licensed facility for more than six children, which provides the basic needs of food, shelter, and the provision of therapeutic services required for the successful reunification of youth with their family resource.

"GUARDIAN" means that person or agency that (a) has been appointed as the guardian of a child in a legal proceeding other than a proceeding under chapter 13.34 RCW, and (b) has the right to legal custody of the child pursuant to such appointment. The term "guardian" does not include a "dependency guardian" appointed pursuant to a proceeding under Chapter 13.34 RCW.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM” (GAL) means a person appointed by the court to represent the child’s best interest before the court. In some jurisdictions, volunteer GALs are also known as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

GUARDIANSHIP” – See the CA Case Services Policy Manual, Appendix A.

IMPASSE” means a deadlock between CA and the LICWAC following thorough discussion by the CA social worker of the case plan and case decisions with the worker’s supervisor and managers, and the LICWAC does not concur with the department’s plan and decisions.

INDIAN” means any of the following groups:

  • Any person who is a member or eligible for membership in a federally recognized Indian Tribe, or who is an Eskimo, Aleut or Alaska native and who is a member of any Alaska Native Regional Corporation or Alaska Native Village;
  • Any person determined, or eligible to be found, to be Indian by the Secretary of the Interior, including through issuance of a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood or by the Indian Health Service (IHS);
  • Any person considered to be Indian by a federally or non-federally recognized Indian Tribe;
  • Any person who is a member or entitled to be a member of a Canadian Tribe or Band, Metis community, or non-status Indian community from Canada; or
  • The biological child of a member of an Indian Tribe; or
  • For purposes of implementing 25 U.S.C. 1917, any adopted individual who has reached the age of 18 and who evidences an intent to or has petitioned the court which entered the final decree of adoption for information on the individual’s tribal affiliation and for other information that may be necessary to protect any rights flowing from the individual’s tribal relationship.

INDIAN CHILD” means any unmarried person under the age of 18 who is:

  • A member of or eligible for membership in a federally recognized Indian Tribe, or who is Eskimo, Aleut or other Alaska Native and a member of an Alaskan native regional Corporation or Alaska Native Village;
  • Determined or eligible to be found to be Indian by the Secretary of the Interior, including through issuance of a certificate of Degree of Indian Blood, or by the IHS;
  • Considered to be Indian by a federally recognized or non-federally recognized Indian Tribe; or
  • A member or entitled to be a member of a Canadian Tribe or Band, Metis community, or non-status Indian community from Canada.

INDIAN CHILD’S TRIBE/FIRST NATION/BAND” means a federally or non-federally recognized Tribe in which a child is a member or eligible for membership or a Tribe, Metis community, or non-status Indian community from Canada in which a child is a member.

INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT” (ICWA) means 25 U.S.C. 1901, et seq.

INDIAN CUSTODIAN” means an Indian person who has custody of an Indian child under tribal law or custom or under state law, or any Indian person to whom the Indian child’s parent has transferred temporary physical care, custody, and control.

INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE” (IHS) means an agency within the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that provides health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

INDIAN INTERPRETER” means any person recognized and designated by the child's Tribe or an Indian organization as an interpreter of the culture, customs, child rearing practices, and standards of the child's Tribe. Such a person may be a language interpreter.

INDIAN ORGANIZATION” means any group, association, partnership, corporation, or other legal entity owned or controlled by Indians, or a majority of whose members are Indians, and which provides social or child welfare services to Indian families.

INDIAN RESERVATION” means Indian Country as defined in Section 1151 of Title 18, United States Code, and any lands not covered under such section, title to which is either held by the United States in trust for any Indian Tribe or individual, subject to a restriction by the United States against alienation.

INTERSTATE COMPACT FOR THE PLACEMENT OF CHILDREN” (ICPC) means a compact between states which provides for services to dependent children crossing state lines. Evaluations of the suitability of possible placements and supervision of children, if placed, are the primary services offered through the ICPC. Monitoring of children in the home of their parents is also provided if the parents have crossed state lines. The ICPC is administered through CA Headquarters for requests by or for state social workers and for Tribes that wish to utilize this service. Federally recognized Tribes may independently join ICPC.

INTERVENE” means to become a party to a suit pending between other persons. The general purpose of allowing a party to intervene is to give them authority to adequately represent their own interest in the action.

INVOLUNTARY” means without will or power of choice. Under ICWA involuntary proceedings are those brought by the state or Tribe to accomplish a purpose with which the parent does not agree.

LEAST RESTRICTIVE SETTING” means a phrase to describe the kind of foster care or pre-adoptive placement that a court must seek. The placement should most closely approximate a family setting and Indian environment or allow the child reasonable proximity and access to resources to meet the child’s needs as an Indian child or other special needs (physical, mental, social, etc.).

LEGALLY FREE CHILD” means a child for whom the parental rights of both the mother and the father have been terminated. Legally free children are placed in the permanent custody of an agency that is then authorized to place the child for adoption or to otherwise care for the child until the child becomes an adult.

LOCAL INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ADVISORY COMMITTEE” (LICWAC) means a body of department-approved and appointed volunteers who staff and consult with the department on cases of Indian children who:

  • Are not members of a federally recognized Tribe;
  • Are members of a Tribe but for whom the Tribe has decided not to intervene or has not responded; or
  • The child’s Tribe has officially designated the LICWAC to speak for the Tribe.

MEDICAL HISTORY” means health information on the child contained in the child’s case record, as required by the CA Practices and Procedures Guide, chapter 4000, section 43092, Health and Education Record.

“NON-FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED INDIAN TRIBE” means:

  • A Canadian First Nations Tribe, Band, Metis, or non-status Indian community; or
  • Any Tribe, Band, or other organized group of community of Indians that has not been recognized as eligible for services provided to Indians by the Secretary of the Interior. Such a Tribe may refer to itself as a “landless” Tribe.

“ORIGINAL PLACEMENT DATE” or “ORIGINAL FOSTER CARE PLACEMENT” – See the CA Practices and Procedures Guide, Appendix A.

"OUT-OF-HOME PLACEMENT or CARE" means a placement in a foster family home or group care facility or placement in a home, other than that of the child's parent, guardian, or legal custodian, not required to be licensed under 74.15 RCW. RCW 74.14C.010

"PARENT" means the parent or parents who have the legal right to custody of the child. "Parent" includes custodian or guardian.

RCW 13.32A.030

"PARENTING STATUS" means:

  • Custodian - a person appointed by the parent, guardian, or state or tribal court to provide care for a child.
  • Guardian - a person appointed by the state or tribal court to provide care or to supervise a child.
  • Parent - may include:
    1. Adoptive parent - a person the courts grant parental status, rights, and privileges for a child.
    2. Birth parents - the persons, male and female, who conceived and gave birth to the child.
    3. Custodial parent - the parent with whom the child resides:
      1. Legal - a current court order designating a parent's right to the child's custody that may include:
        1. Joint custody.
        2. Parenting plans.
        3. Shared custody.
        4. Sole custody to one parent.
      2. Physical - the parent(s) with whom the child resides or is found.
    4. Non-custodial parent – the parent with whom the child does not reside or is found.
  • Step-parent - a person, not the child's parent, who is currently or was formerly married to the child's parent.
  • Caretaker - a person who has actual physical supervision responsibility for a child and may include any of the above parenting statuses or a person appointed to provide physical custody.

PLACEMENT” means the home in which the child lives as authorized by the state or tribal court or voluntary placement agreement.

PREVAILING SOCIAL AND CULTURAL STANDARDS” means the standards of conduct common in a community. For example, it might be common in an Indian community to leave grade school children unattended for periods of time during the day or have several people share a bedroom. Even if this is not considered acceptable in the non-Indian community, Section 105(d) of ICWA requires these common practices of the Indian community to be the basis for determining the fitness of a home for placement of the child.

PSYCHOLOGICAL RELATIVE” (also known as fictive kin or kinship care) means an individual, not related by blood or marriage, who has taken an active part in the caretaking of the child and for whom the child has developed a sustained psychological bond.

QUALIFIED EXPERT OR QUALIFIED EXPERT WITNESS” means:

  • A professional person recognized and approved by the child's Tribe and DSHS as having substantial education and experience in the area of his or her specialty, and extensive knowledge of the prevailing social and cultural standards, family organization and child rearing practices within the Indian community relevant to the Indian child who is the subject of the child custody proceeding or other action;
  • A person recognized and approved by the child's Tribe and DSHS as having substantial experience in the delivery of child and family services to Indians, and extensive knowledge of the prevailing social and cultural standards, family organization and child-rearing practices within the Indian community relevant to the Indian child who is the subject of the child custody proceeding or other action; or
  • A member of the child's Indian community who is recognized within the community as an expert in tribal customs and practices pertaining to family organization and child-rearing.

REASONABLE EFFORTS” means the exercise of due diligence by the reasonable social service agency to use appropriate and available services to meet the needs of the child and the child’s family. Case activities must include remedial services that appropriately and actively address the specific dangers of the case.

REASSUMPTION OF JURISDICTION” means the process by which certain Tribes or tribal groups may regain power and authority over child custody proceedings.

RELINQUISHMENT” means the voluntary termination of one’s parental rights to a child. For children protected by ICWA, there are special conditions that must be met prior to a parent relinquishing parental rights. Parental rights are not terminated until the relinquishment is presented to the court and the court has entered an order terminating parental rights. See chapter 06, section 06.85.

RESIDENCE” means the place where a person actually lives or has a home, dwelling, or place of habitation. A person may have more than one residence but may have only one domicile.

RIGHT OF INTERVENTION” means an authorization by law for a third party or Tribe to join either side or to assert the person or Tribe’s own views in a court proceeding. ICWA specifically provides for an Indian custodian or Tribe to take part in a state court proceeding involving foster care placement or termination of parental rights to an Indian child.

STANDARD OF PROOF” means varying requirements of proof in different judicial proceedings:

  • "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" is the level of proof required to support termination of parental rightsfor children protected by ICWA. This is a very high level of proof and means that the side requesting termination must not only put on a more convincing case than the opposition, but must also be so convincing that it eliminates all reasonable doubts in the mind of the person deciding the case. If it fails to do so, the court is obligated by ICWA to deny termination. This evidence must include the testimony of a qualified expert witness to show that continued custody of a child by the child’s parents or caretakers is likely to result in a serious emotional or physical damage to the child.
  • "Clear, Cogent, and Convincing" is a somewhat higher standard than “preponderance of evidence,” and in some states this standard or proof is applicable in abuse and neglect proceedings.
  • In "Preponderance of Evidence," the petitioner must prove the existence of abuse or neglect. This is a significantly lesser standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is often interpreted to mean that the judge or jury must believe that "it is more likely than not" that abuse or neglect exists.

TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS” means an order that severs all rights and responsibilities of an individual to the person’s child. The action is taken to allow another individual to adopt the child and assume the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent.

TRANSFER OF JURISDICTION” or “TRANSFER OF PROCEEDING” means the process by which the power to decide a child custody case is moved from one court to another, usually from state court to tribal court.

TRIBAL COURT” means a court with jurisdiction over child custody proceedings and which is either:

  • A court of Indian offenses; or
  • A court established and operated under the code or custom of any federally recognized Indian Tribe; or
  • Any other administrative body of a federally recognized Indian Tribe that is vested with authority over child custody proceedings.

When a Tribe designates the tribal court of another Tribe to act on its behalf, the term also includes the tribal court of the other Tribe.

TRIBAL INTERVENTION” - In a child custody proceeding involving an Indian child, the act of the child’s Tribe in becoming a party to the proceeding in a state court.

TRIBE'S SOCIAL SERVICES PROGRAM” means the tribal program, however named, with responsibility for provision of social services to Indian children and families.

“RECOGNIZED INDIAN CHILD” means an unmarried person under age 18 who does not meet the definition of “Indian Child,” “Washington State Indian Child,” or “Canadian First Nations Indian Child.” Regardless of enrollment or membership status, an recognized Indian child is a child considered to be an Indian by a federally or non-federally recognized Indian Tribe or off-reservation Indian/Alaska Native community organization.

“WASHINGTON STATE INDIAN CHILD” means an Indian child meeting the definition of “Federally Recognized Indian Child” and whose Tribe is a federally recognized Tribe located within the state of Washington.