Strengthening Data Collection to Promote Well-Being of Native Families

Strengthening Data Collection to Promote Well-Being of Native Families

Mathematica Submits Recommendations to ACF Around Data Collection Through the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS)
Apr 23, 2024
Smiling native mother and daughter

Mathematica provided recommendations around strengthening data collection about Native children involved in state child welfare systems to better understand the experiences of and improve outcomes for Native families.

“Federal policies once intended to eradicate Native people—such as the forced displacement of Tribal Nations and forced removal of Native children to attend boarding schools—are still felt today and endanger cultural heritage and continuity, traditional family structures, and community well-being,” wrote Mathematica. “The proposed rule is necessary and timely, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Haaland v. Brackeen decision—which upheld [Indian Child Welfare Act] procedural protections and affirmed ICWA’s importance in addressing the historical and ongoing trauma of separating Native children from their families.”

Mathematica’s recommendations came in response to a proposed rule from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), regarding changes to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) regulations that require Title IV–E agencies to collect and report data to ACF on Native children and families in child welfare systems related to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA).

Mathematica’s comments draw on the organization’s decades of experience with federal, state, local, and Tribal Title IV-E agencies and their partner organizations to provide data-driven training and technical assistance. Specifically, Mathematica’s insights and recommendations to ACF for strengthening ICWA-related data collection include:

  • Notify not only Tribal Nations but the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) of collected data, to ensure that states comply with notice requirements when the Tribal Nation is unknown.
  • Explore the implications for non-federally recognized Tribal Nations of state ICWA laws that mirror the Act’s original provisions and include considerations for non-federally recognized, including state-recognized, Tribal Nations.
  • Encourage state Title IV-E agencies to obtain certain data through data exchanges with the courts to ensure high-quality data.
  • Prioritize data elements that provide the most value in better understanding the experiences of Native children and families, including available ICWA foster care and pre-adoptive placement preferences and adoption placement preferences under ICWA.