National Child Welfare Association

2016 NICWA Annual Conference
Highlights and Conference Theme


Lauren Shapiro

Events Manager

(503) 222-4044, ext. 118

Each year, the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) hosts the largest national gathering on American Indian and Alaska Native child advocacy issues. With over 1,000 attendees, this three-day conference attracts attention across North America, creating a space where participants can learn about the latest information across Indian Country in child welfare.

NICWA is excited to announce that our 34th Annual Protecting Our Children National American Indian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect will be taking place in St. Paul, Minnesota, on April 3–6, 2016. Conference attendees are a cross-section of experts including child welfare, mental health, and juvenile justice service providers; legal professionals; students; advocates for children; and tribal and federal leaders. 

Conference Highlights

  • Over 70 workshops to attend people
  • Exhibitors and arts and crafts vendors
  • Over 150 tribes represented
  • Social and professional networking
  • Cultural activities
  • Four exciting general sessions
  • Skill-building workshops
  • Banquet
  • Membership reception
  • Special affinity group meetings such as those targeting ICWA directors and legal professionals
  • Special program for adult adoptees and their families including a policy summit
  • Awarding of the 2016 Champion for Native Children

Conference Goals

  • To highlight successful strategies for developing effective services
  • To reveal the latest and most innovative child welfare and children’s mental health service delivery practices
  • To highlight tactics and strategies for financing and sustaining services that impact children
  • To showcase strategies for involving youth and families in developing services and policies that lead to systems change
  • To create peer-to-peer networks that will assist each other in the work toward permanency for all American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) families
  • To share the latest research on the well-being of AI/AN children and effective child welfare and children’s mental health services, practices, and policies.

About Our Conference Theme
Voices of Our Ancestors: Focusing on the Seventh Generation

Tonight, wherever you are, take a moment to look up at the stars and imagine a time 140 years ago. Seven generations ago. For most of our Native ancestors, it was a very difficult time. The removal of families from ancestral lands, disease, and conflict had permanently changed our way of life. The future was uncertain. Yet, we know from our oral histories that our ancestors were already praying for us. We know they asked the Creator for hope, peace, health, and a better life for the seventh generation.

Now look around you. There are many challenges we continue to face: disproportionate removal of our children, lack of services, poverty, addiction, hopelessness, and the fatigue of continually fighting to keep the rights we have worked so hard to secure. It is our turn to advocate and help improve the lives of the people that we serve, their children, and their children’s children.

Today, our communities strive to fulfill the hopes of our ancestors’ prayers. All across Indian Country, tribal communities are reaching out to one another to employ our collective wisdom to help Native children and families. Our voices grow ever stronger in policy arenas. Native youth are rallying alongside us, preparing to lead the work we have started. Tribal leaders are coming together to defend the laws that protect our children.

Tonight, look back to the stars. Thank the ancestors for their prayers. Ask the Creator for guidance about how we can move towards strong, healthy, and culturally vibrant communities seven generations from now. This is the time to stand up and create a better tomorrow. This is the time to come together to create real change, an enduring legacy, so that those looking to the stars seven generations from now will know that—together—we worked to create a better future for them.