National Child Welfare Association


groups paddling in boats

The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) evolved from the Northwest Indian Child Welfare Institute. In 1983, the Northwest Indian Child Welfare Institute was developed in response to the need for trained Indian child welfare workers in both reservation- and urban-based Indian child welfare (ICW) programs. The Institute was sponsored by the Parry Center for Children in Portland, Oregon, in cooperation with Portland State University and was guided by a team of advisors, mostly from Northwest tribes. Indian child welfare training to tribal workers began; in 1985, staff, trainers, and advisors decided that the Institute should continue operation under Native American control.

Early Incarnation

In 1987, members of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) and a regional consortium of Northwest tribes, formed a child welfare committee to help set policy and direction on Indian child and family issues. Recognizing the importance of having an organization serve Northwest tribes' children and families, the ATNI Child Welfare Committee, institute staff, and tribes created the Northwest Indian Child Welfare Association (NWICWA). The Association assumed control of the Institute's materials and training projects and commenced operation.

At its first membership meeting, NWICWA was charged with keeping members informed on ICW practice issues, helping tribal communities proactively respond to children's and families' needs, advocating for adequate funding for tribal programs, and ensuring proper implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. These directives quickly brought to light the importance of NWICWA as a vital resource for Northwest tribes. The Meyer Memorial Trust was the first foundation to step up with a major grant for capacity building.

Over the next five years, with the generous support of several leading foundations and input from the tribes, NWICWA developed three major areas of activities. These areas were information exchange, community development, and public policy analysis.

Providing Services Nationwide

By 1992, nearly every tribe in the country began seeking NWICWA's training and resources. Although a regionally-focused organization at the time, NWICWA never turned away service, and, at the urging of its membership, NWICWA changed its name to the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA). Many of the Association's activities had become national in scope and in 1994 the organization, responding to the need nationally, began a transition to being national in scope and in name.


two sisters using cell phone - photo by Kristin Beadle

Today, NICWA is a national voice for American Indian children and families. It is a membership organization whose main constituency is tribal governments, urban Indian social service programs and, in particular, the frontline staff who work with Indian children and families.

Funding Sources

NICWA is a private, non-profit organization based in Portland, Oregon. NICWA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and receives its funding from many different sources, including memberships, individual and corporate donations, fundraising events, program contracts and fees for service, curriculum sales, and foundation and federal grants.

Membership Organization

NICWA's members include tribes, individuals, both Indian and non-Indian, and private organizations from around the United States concerned with Indian child and family issues. Together, our members, board, and staff work to ensure that the most vital resource of Indian people-our children-are protected.