Houses Passes Bill to Place Native American Foster Children in Culturally Appropriate Care

  House Bill 4148 was passed in the Oregon House of Representatives on Thursday, February 20. The legislation seeks to place Native American and Alaska Native foster children in culturally appropriate care.  

WOULD ALIGN OREGON WITH FEDERAL LAW: This bill modifies the current dependency law in order to better fit with the Indian Child Welfare Act and mandates the Oregon Department of Human Services to provide reports every other year on American Indian and Alaska Native children in the welfare system.  

This new legislation essentially works to protect Native American children in culturally appropriate environments within Oregon’s foster care system. “Culturally appropriate” meaning that the cultural identity of Native American foster children will be protected through carrying on their traditions and connection to their family and tribe whilst they are in the foster care system.   

The bill is a response to the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which was created “to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children from their families and the placement of such children in foster or adoptive homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture.”  

4148 is a direct follow up to concerns about over-representation of Native American children in the foster care system, who made up 4.8 percent of Oregon’s system in 2018, though they make up only 1.6 percent of the total population.   

BIPARTISAN SUPPORT: The main sponsors of this bill include Representatives Tawna Sanchez (D), Rick Lewis (R), Ron Noble (R) and Senators Bill Hansell (R) and Arnie Roblan (D).  

By Cara Nixon