Congratulations are in order for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) program which signed a Memorandum of Understanding last week in partnership with Arizona’s Department of Child Services. The success of this important signing is due in large part from the help of the Tiwahe Initiative program which spent years negotiating between the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Arizona’s DCS to get this agreement over the finish line.
With this new memorandum in place the MOU principles and terms will now track along the ICWA’s mandate within the State of Arizona safely for the next 10 years. For the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the timing of this MOU signing could not be more crucial as the pending Supreme Court Brackeen opinion has the potential to upend the ICWA and remove many Indigenous children from their cultures, traditions, and families.
At the signing ceremony, it was emphasized that no matter the outcome of the federal protections in ICWA, this MOU would help guide Arizona’s relationship with the Pascua Yaqui tribe going forward. The Tiwahe Initiative program and added capacity not only helped the Pascua Yaqui Tribe develop these relationships with the Arizona DCS, but with the signing of this MOU, it has helped ensure that ICWA cultural norms would be a primary consideration in tribal foster cases.
“Any foster care, pre-adoptive or adoptive placement shall be the least restrictive setting which shares similar social and cultural standards of a Pascua Yaqui Tribe family in which the child’s special needs, if any, may be met. DCS shall consult with the Tribe regarding all questions which relate to Pascua Yaqui social and cultural standards.”
The Pascua Yaqui Tribe will next begin amendments to their Juvenile Code to bolster it for additional transfers and flexibility in tribal court if needed, post the Brackeen v. Haaland Supreme Court decision.