Chapter 6 : Section 05

Placement Preferences of an Indian Child


For any child in out-of-home care, the Department must place the child in the least-restrictive setting that:

  • most approximates a family, taking into consideration sibling attachment;

  • allows the Indian child’s special needs (if any) to be met; and

  • is in reasonable proximity to the Indian child’s home, extended family, or siblings.

Unless the Indian child’s tribe has established a different order of caregiver preference the Department shall give preference, in descending order as listed below, to placement of an Indian child with:

  • a member of the child’s extended family (Indian child's grandparent, aunt or uncle, brother or sister, niece or nephew, first or second cousin, or step-parent);

  • a foster home that is licensed, approved, or specified by the Indian child’s tribe;

  • an Indian foster home licensed or approved by an authorized non-Indian licensing authority; and

  • an institution for children approved by an Indian tribe or operated by an Indian organization which has a program suitable to meet the Indian child's needs.

Unless the Indian child’s tribe has established a different order of caregiver preference, the Department shall give preference to a potential adoptive parent of an Indian child with:

  • a member of the child’s extended family;

  • other members of the Indian child’s tribe; or

  • other Indian families.

If the state court finds there is good cause to deviate from the order of preference, the Department may place the child outside the prescribed order of preference.

If the parent or Indian child age 12 and over has requested a caregiver outside these preferences, the request shall be considered and reviewed with the supervisor, the Assistant Attorney General, and the child’s tribe.

Within 14 days of a request by an Indian child's Tribe or the Secretary of the Interior the Department shall make available the following records:

  • the petition or complaint;

  • all substantive orders entered in the child custody proceeding;

  • complete records of the caregiver determination; and

  • if the placement departs from the caregiver preferences, detailed documentation of the efforts to comply with the preferences and the reasons the court found good cause to deviate from them.


Determining the Appropriate Caregiver

To determine the appropriate caregiver for the Indian child, consider the following questions:

  • Is the setting the least restrictive which most closely approximates a family?

  • Will the setting facilitate frequent contact with parents, siblings, and extended family and within reasonable proximity to the child’s home?

  • Does the setting support the Indian child’s ties to social and cultural resources and traditions?

  • Will the setting meet the child’s special needs, if any?

  • Do the parents, and the child, if age appropriate, support placement with the caregiver?

  • Do the extended family and tribe, if involved, support placement with the caregiver?

Inform the parent, legal guardian, or Indian custodian of:

  • caregiver preference requirements; and

  • contact with the tribe to develop caregiver resources.

Consult with the parents and any known extended family regarding the availability of relatives and family friends as resources. Notify potential caregivers of the need for an assessment of the family and the availability of kinship care resources.

Contact the tribal social services department of the tribe the child is affiliated with and/or ICWA representative to identify resources such as tribally licensed foster homes and relative caregivers. Consider foster homes licensed by the tribe for placement. Consult with a regional ICWA liaison regarding tribally licensed foster homes. The Department pays the same rates to tribally licensed foster homes as homes licensed by the Office of Licensing and Regulation (OLR).

Contact the tribe to see if they have established a different order of caregiver preference.

The Pascua Yaqui tribe placement preferences for Yaqui children shall be, in order of preference:

  1. A local Yaqui extended family member. Extended family member is defined as a Relative to the child, a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent, 1st cousin, 2nd cousin, or godparent.

  2. A local non-Yaqui extended family member.

  3. A local non-related Yaqui family.

  4. A local Indian family.

  5. A non-local Yaqui extended family member.

  6. A non-local, non-Yaqui extended family.

  7. A non-local Yaqui family.

  8. 8. A non-local Indian family.

  9. 9. A non-local non-Indian family.

If Yaqui children are placed with a non-Yaqui family, the following conditions, when reasonable, should be imposed:

  • Yaqui child/ children should have reasonable access to Yaqui family members, including, but not limited to: visitation, phone calls, and correspondence;

  • if the Yaqui child/ children wish to observe or participate in the Tribe's cultural and religious ceremonies - especially Cuaresma (Easter) - the Tribe's Social Services Department must be notified so that appropriate arrangements can be made;

  • Yaqui child's/ children's name(s) cannot be changed;

  • all correspondence from the Tribe (such as the Yaqui Times, special mailings, etc.) must be accepted;

  • the Tribe must be kept informed of all address changes;

  • the Tribe's Social Services Department must be allowed to conduct reviews at least two times per year, upon adequate advance notice from the Tribe;

  • if the non-Yaqui family or parental rights are at risk, the Tribe's Social Services Department must be notified immediately.

These preferences are effective for temporary and permanent caregivers, including foster care, permanent guardianship, and adoptive homes.

If potential caregivers are located on the reservation, request tribal social services to conduct family assessments of potential caregivers.


Ensure the child’s tribe has been added to the case.

Document child, parent and grandparent information and affiliated tribal information using the Native American Indian Detail tab.

In Notes, document all contacts with the Indian child’s and/or the parent’s tribe including the name, address, title, telephone number of the person contacted and the results of these contacts.

In Notes, all contacts with extended family to develop caregiver resources should be thoroughly documented. See Locating Missing Parents & Families

File copies of all correspondences with tribal staff in the hard copy case record.

In the Report to the Juvenile Court for the Preliminary Protective Hearing and/or Initial Dependency Hearing Progress Report to the Juvenile Court and Report to the Juvenile Court for the Permanency Hearing, document detailed efforts to place the Indian child in a preferred living arrangement. If unable to place the Indian child in a preferred living arrangement, document the good cause to deviate from the preferences and continued efforts to find or place the Indian child with a preferred caregiver.

Effective Date: February 1, 2021
Revision History: November 30, 2012, December 13, 2016