Apr 062018
 
COMMENTS ON delaying the HHS Rule concerning ICWA Data - DUE APRIL 16

RE: ABSENCE OF DATA ON OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN TRANSFERRED UNDER ICWA: In an April, 2016, interview with The Chronicle of Social Change, Administration on Children, Youth and Families Commissioner Rafael López confirmed the absence of ICWA data, stating, “Not being able to articulate very clearly what’s happening to all children, let alone American Indian and Alaskan Native children, is unacceptable.’ (Kelly 2016).

In 2015, the ACF initiated database collection for all children of tribal heritage who present before a court for foster care, but decided it didn’t go far enough. “HHS had determined that it did not have jurisdiction to collect information on Native American youth through the enforcement authority regarding ICWA and, therefore, was not able to make the requested changes or additions to the AFCARS data elements regarding ICWA” (Kelly 2016).

However, since then, “…legal counsel re-examined the issue and determined it is within ACF’s existing authority to collect state-level ICWA-related data on American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children in child welfare systems…” (Kelly 2016).

All 50 States have now received guidelines pertaining to the data they are to keep. Obviously, it will take time for the ACF to collect and evaluate the data. Complicating matters, several tribal entities are now claiming “data sovereignty,” with the right to govern how data concerning their membership is collected and used, leaving an open question of manipulation and accuracy.

NOTE – tribal entities and the ACF are claiming the right to data collected concerning ALL children in need of care – regardless of heritage – not to mention regardless of parental decisions to distance themselves and their families from tribal governments.

That all said, if the data MUST be taken from all these independent, free citizens, it should be open for study and verification by ALL stakeholders – meaning, not just the entities that the BIA and ACF claim to be stakeholders – but EVERYONE who is deemed under the jurisdiction of ICWA – or under this rule.

AND because the BIA’s ICWA rules mandate that each and every child presented to court in need of care – no matter presumed heritage – be evaluated for geneology and forced to participate in this data collection – ALL children who are in need of care and those involved with them are affected by this rule.
This is regardless of the fact that MOST children in need of care do not have any tribal heritage or connection to a tribal government.

Children and their families – who may have no tribal heritage at all – are still evaluated for geneology ‘just in case’ – and are potentially delayed in their process and ability to quickly find permanency, as well as potentially prevented from being with the family they have emotionally chosen.

BUT this personal, family data collected within this rule will ONLY be given to a federal agency – the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to assist its work with tribal entities to benefit tribal governments.

This rule affects citizens of all heritages and communities – BUT most people and non-tribal organizations will not have direct access to the data.

This private, family data – if it must be collected – needs to be open to everyone for study and research – as it involves children unrelated to tribal or BIA jurisdiction and needs eyes that DO NOT have a vested interest in twisting data to secure an agenda involving other people’s children.

THAT said – one attorney has additional comments concerning it.

According to one of the best ICWA attornies in the nation – … the proposed rule is a waste of time… determining when a child is in “Indian child” can be a process! Agencies must send time-consuming notices and inquiries to the tribes to determine whether or not a child is eligible for membership — even when that’s not relevant (because the parent isn’t a current member). Here is what the actual rule requires:

In paragraph (b)(3), we require that the state title IV-E agency report whether the state title IV-E agency researched whether there is reason to know that a child is an “Indian Child” as defined in ICWA by: Inquiring with the child, the child’s biological or adoptive parents (if not deceased), the child’s Indian custodian (if the child has one), and the child’s extended family; indicating whether the child is a member or eligible for membership in a tribe; and indicating whether the domicile or residence of the child, parent, or the Indian custodian is on an Indian reservation or in an Alaska Native Village. This is similar to paragraph (i)(3) as proposed in the 2016 SNPRM, however we moved data elements related to ascertaining the tribal membership status of the child’s parents to section 1355.44(c)(3) and (c)(4), and we added, in response to comments discussed later, a data element for inquiring with the child’s extended family in paragraph (b)(3)(iv).

From the attorney – “This is asking the agency to inquire into irrelevant questions! And how many checkboxes does an agency have to complete in order to answer every single one of the questions above? I simply don’t see the pay off for answering those questions.”

PLEASE TELL THE HHS/ACF THAT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RULE MUST BE DELAYED UNTIL ALL THIS CAN BE PROPERLY CONSIDERED.

TO ADDRESS THIS RULE BY APRIL 16th –

SUMMARY: The Children’s Bureau proposes to delay the compliance and effective dates in the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) 2016 final rule for title IV–E agencies to comply with agency rules for an additional two fiscal years. We propose to delay the compliance and effective dates at the same time we seek public comment through an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), published elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register, on suggestions to streamline the AFCARS data elements and remove any undue burden related to reporting AFCARS.
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DATES: In order to be considered, we must receive written comments on this NPRM on or before April 16, 2018.
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ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by [docket number and/or RIN number], by one of the following methods:
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• Federal eRulemaking Portal:
https://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
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• Email: CBComments@acf.hhs.gov.
Include [docket number and/or RIN number] in subject line of the message.
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• Mail: Written comments may be submitted to
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Kathleen McHugh
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families
Director, Policy Division
330 C Street SW, Washington, DC 0024.

Please be aware that mail sent in response to this ANPRM may take an additional 3 to 4 days to process due to security screening of mail.

Instructions: When commenting, please identify the topic, data element, or issue to which your comment pertains. All submissions received must include the agency name and docket number or Regulatory Information Number for this rulemaking. All comments received will be posted without change to https://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided.

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WRITE AGAIN TO THE SAME ABOVE ADDRESSES BEFORE JUNE 13 TO DISCUSS THE REASONS THE RULES SHOULD NOT BE IMPLEMENTED OR SHOULD BE CHANGED TO BE LESS INTRUSIVE, AND/OR SHOULD BE CHANGED TO CCESSIBLE TO ALL INTERESTED PARTIES.

SUMMARY: ACF is seeking public suggestions, in particular from state and tribal title IV–E agencies and Indian tribes and tribal consortiums and other stakeholders, for streamlining the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) data elements and removing any undue burden related to reporting AFCARS.

DATES:Comments on this advance notice of proposed rulemaking must be received by June 13, 2018.

READ the posted PDF from the Federal Register/ Vol. 83, No. 51 / Thursday, March 15, 2018 / Proposed Rules Page 11450

BIA taking comments re ICWA data March 2018

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