LC4T is a project of the California Tribal Families Coalition. In 2017, at the request of former California Attorney General Kamala Harris, tribes completed the ICWA Compliance Task Force Report, which includes 20 recommendations to increase Indian Child Welfare Act compliance across the state. The number one recommendation of the Task Force Report is to fix the glaring inequity that in Indian Child Welfare cases all parties have publicly funded legal representation, except Tribes. LC4T is the solution to that inequity. LC4T will, through accessing federal and state funds available to others, provide an attorney, at no cost to the Tribe, for state court ICWA cases. As the LC4T project scales up across California, a highly trained attorney will be there, side-by-side with tribes in court, for Every Tribe, Every Child, Every Case.


Every time a tribe walks into a courtroom to defends its rights under ICWA, without highly trained legal representation, that tribes’ rights and citizens are at risk. LC4T will work with tribes to be certain that tribal rights are protected, that tribes’ interests are elevated in court proceedings, and that judges and counties are held accountable for ICWA compliance. Further, LC4T attorneys will, whenever legally possible, transfer cases to Tribal Courts, which often have the services and supports that are most successful in protecting and reunifying tribal families. LC4T will be ready, when a tribe determines they need legal counsel on a state court ICWA case, to help tribes, regardless of resources, navigate the complexities of ICWA.


ICWA and the California version of the federal statute, referred to as Cal-ICWA, are at risk each time a tribal child’s case is in state court, this risk is exponentially greater when the court is unfamiliar with ICWA and there is no ICWA trained lawyer to ensure the law is followed. Each case in which there is a violation of ICWA creates the possibility of bad case precedent, an opportunity for an appellate court to strike down these laws or some provision of them. LC4T will be present in court, as early in the proceedings as possible, when mistakes are most often made, to prevent such mistakes and to make a clean court record, protective of tribal interests and ICWA, when a case must be appealed.


LC4T will handle ICWA cases in state court with an effort to transfer as many cases as legally possible to tribal court. LC4T will first ramp up regionally, representing tribes in state court ICWA dependency cases. Once the project is fully in place across California, resources permitting, LC4T will expand into other types of ICWA matters, such as guardianships and appeals.