2023 Annual Report & Year End Impacts

What we accomplished together in 2023:

We at California Tribal Families Coalition are excited to share our 2023 Annual Report documenting what we have collectively accomplished this year as a Coalition of nearly 50 tribes in California. We’d like to take time to reflect, celebrate and share gratitude with you all for the strides we made together in 2023 protecting the health, safety and welfare of tribal children and families.  

First and foremost, the greatest success this year was the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Haaland v. Brackeen case, affirming what tribes have long known – the Indian Child Welfare Act is constitutional and continues to protect the best interests of tribal children and nations.  

While working hard to prepare for that decision, together, our board, staff and member tribes we were steadfast in continuing to push the state of California to increase enforcement of ICWA and respect sovereign rights to promote the welfare of tribal citizens. These steps forward required vigilance in the monitoring of and advocating to the California Department of Social Services. CTFC raised the unified tribal voice in more than 80 different consultations, tribal advisory sessions, statewide workgroups, and written policy releases. Together, in addition to sponsoring three bills, we also acted as watchdogs of the California Legislature, educating legislators and advocacy organizations on Indian child welfare issues to ensure the protection of tribal children in more than 120-child welfare related bills in the 22-23 legislative session.   

At the federal level, CTFC continued to push forward tribal priorities, including the top recommendation of the ICWA Compliance Task Force Report to correct the inequity of tribes being the only parties in ICWA cases without publicly funded attorneys. After years of advocacy, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) proposed a new rule to allow federal funding to support tribal attorneys. We also continue to advocate in various forums for federal policy initiatives including as the technical advisors to the California primary delegate on the ACF Tribal Advisory Committee and submitting detailed comments on the federal ICWA consultation this summer. 

Our efforts are having lasting impact, and we cannot do this work without you. The advocacy work we do together depends on support from Member Tribes and can only be funded through tribal dollars. Only with unrestricted dollars can we respond to emerging tribal needs and remain untethered to government and private actor interests that rarely align with upholding tribal sovereignty.  

Beyond our federal and state level work, the Coalition works on issues of importance to Member Tribes in three regions across the state. 

Our Collective 2023 Impact in Northern California  

In the Northern Region, CTFC was deeply engaged in: 

·    Assisted 9 Member Tribes in requesting consultation with CDSS to engage in greater oversight of the failing Humboldt County child welfare system. This included collecting, compiling and presenting tribal data in the county to counter county claims of compliance. As a result of this advocacy, CDSS is conducting further investigation on the compliance issues raised by tribes. 

·    Provided direct legal representation to Member Tribes in the region.  

·    Assisted tribes in developing an MOU for respectful shared decision making with county child welfare. 

·    Assisted 9 Member Tribes in accessing state funding for tribally approved homes and legal representation. 

·    Provided capacity building support for 5 tribes in areas such as policy development, funding application and implementation, and legal research for litigation.  

·    Provided training to both tribal staff and county staff on ICWA topics as requested.  

Our Collective 2023 Impact in Central California  

In the Central Region, CTFC was deeply engaged in: 

·    Assisted 6 Member Tribes in accessing the state funding opportunities for tribally approved homes and legal representation. 

·    Provided direct legal representation to Member Tribes in the region.  

·    Trained 12 local community members to be Qualified Expert Witnesses (QEWs), so counties can no longer claim there are no local options to choose from. Five of the trainees have since served as QEWs. 

·    Provided capacity building support for 2 tribes as requested in areas such as policy development, funding application and implementation, and legal research for litigation. 

·    Assisted tribes in developing relationships with the Kern Regional Central and the Central Valley Regional Center. Regional Centers offer essential services to individuals with developmental needs and have historically underserved tribal communities. 

·    Increased the number of tribally approved homes and local Native foster homes by providing training and technical assistance.  

·    Provided our flagship ICWA Certification Training to child welfare staff in Sacramento, Madera and Fresno Counties and provided specialized ICWA training to Sonoma County leadership. 

Our Collective 2023 Impact in Southern California  

In the Southern Region, CTFC was deeply engaged in: 

·    Conducted regional expansion in Riverside and San Bernadino counties after Member Tribes shared challenges and the Riverside County Children’s Services Division came under investigation for negligent practices because a number of children were found to have suffered extreme abuse while in foster care under the supervision of the agency. 

·    Provided direct legal representation to Member Tribes in the region. 

·    Provided input to Los Angeles County on the Blind Removal Pilot Program and potential impacts for ICWA compliance.  

·    Assisted tribes in developing relationships with the Inland Regional Center and the San Diego Regional Center. Regional Centers offer essential services to individuals with developmental needs and have historically underserved tribal communities. 

·    Assisted 8 Member Tribes in accessing the state funding opportunities for tribally approved homes and legal representation. 

·    Provided capacity building support to tribes as requested in areas such as policy development, funding application and implementation, and legal research for litigation. 

·    Provided training to both tribal staff and county staff on various ICWA topics.  

As staff of the Coalition, we are led by each Member Tribe in pursuing the right priorities for change. We are here to serve you and hope you reach out to us whenever you need support in Indian child welfare matters. 

We need your voice and support! 

As we continue to do this work, we hope you will continue to engage with us by supporting the work that we collectively do as a Coalition of tribes. Some ways to be more involved in the Coalition include: 

·    Become a Member Tribe in 2024 to add your voice to the unified voice of nearly 50 other tribes in the state. You can become a Member simply by passing a duly adopted tribal government resolution, motion or other official governance action of the tribe that is in substantial conformity to the membership resolution approved by the CTFC Board of Directors. See our sample resolution. We also ask Member Tribes to submit a Consultation Designation letter to the California Department of Social Services, though it is not required. 

·    Be an advocate at state and federal opportunities for change by reaching out to us for talking points with unified messaging. 

·    Consider joining our Board of Directors. We are accepting nominations until January 5, 2024 for the April 2024 election. Board terms are 3 years and there are 5 seats to fill this year! 

·    Attend our virtual Annual Meeting on April 18, 2024 and consider sponsoring a table at our Annual Dinner on September 25, 2024 in Sacramento, CA. 

·    Reach out when you see a lack of ICWA compliance so we can rally our Coalition to make change. 

·    Donate. Does your tribe hold a charitable golf tournament or event? Consider CTFC as beneficiary. Feel free to contact our Director of Fiscal and Program Operations Bonnie Pullen at bonnie.pullen@caltribalfamilies.org for more ideas on how to give to CTFC. 

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