Over the next few weeks we will be telling you about this year’s recipients of our Good Apple Awards, which will be honored at the Good Apple Awards on October 4, 2012 in Omaha.
This year, we are proud to present our Seeds of Justice Award for outstanding legal contributions to public interest law to the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Coalition.
The Nebraska ICWA Coalition – made up of tribal representatives, ICWA specialists, attorneys, and other advocates – has worked to better the lives of Native American children and families in Nebraska’s foster care system.
In Nebraska, Native American children are seven times more likely to be removed from their homes and placed in foster care than the state’s non-native population. Those that are removed often are not placed in native foster homes which creates a cultural disconnect that makes an already-difficult situation for the children even more harmful.
The ICWA Coalition has met on a nearly monthly basis since 2007 and has collaborated on several projects including developing a list of tribal social services resources, identifying and training tribal expert witnesses, conducting ICWA trainings to attorneys and others, raising awareness of ICWA issues, and generally working to develop relationships and increase communications between state and tribal advocates. In 2009, the Coalition submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Nebraska Supreme Court in the case of In re Interest of Elias L., which insured that tribal representatives can intervene in juvenile cases involving Native American children to help children maintain connections with their tribes. The Coalition will be actively involved with an interim study this fall, LR578, to educate Nebraska legislators on how well the state is complying with the ICWA law. A public hearing will be held on the Omaha Reservation on September 25th.
Preserving Native American culture, reducing disproportionality and improving awareness of and compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act are the highest priorities of the ICWA Coalition. For their efforts, Nebraska Appleseed is proud to honor the coalition with our Seeds Of Justice Award.