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June 2020                                                                             Volume 6, Number 22

CILS is closely monitoring the ever-changing work restrictions and recommendations from public health officials on the COVID-19 pandemic. Our priority is the protection of our staff, their families, and our clients.

Read our  Weekly COVID-19 News Brief on our  COVID page for important updates and information.

CILS has instituted a program-wide policy requesting all CILS staff to work remotely from home and have closed all offices to the public. We will continue to accept and return calls from new and existing clients. Attorney staff will ensure their clients' legal interests are protected and keep them updated on any and all information relevant to their case.

CILS is committed to being here for our tribal communities and tribes. If you have questions, concerns, or need additional information on the status of CILS or the COVID-19 pandemic, please call the CILS office closest to your location or the Principal Office at 760-746-8941. We will return your call as soon as possible.

Thank you for your understanding, and please stay safe.

Our mission is to protect and advance Indian rights, foster Indian self-determination, and facilitate tribal nation-building. CILS offers representation in cases that involve issues unique to Native Americans.
 Active Efforts in ICWA Cases During the Pandemic 
Escondido, CA - February 4, 2020:  Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) cases are being severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic:  courts are delaying time-sensitive hearings, tribal families visits are being disrupted or canceled altogether, and case plan services are being put on hold. This raises concerns of whether active efforts tribal families need in order to reunite with their children can still be provided during the pandemic. As an advocate for ICWA compliance, you may be asking yourself, should I hunker down for now and deal with all efforts and services issues once the pandemic is under control? NO! Do ANY services even exist in a time like this, let alone active efforts or reasonable services? YES! What can I do to make sure active efforts continue to be provided to tribal families?
Here are some ideas to get your cases back on track with active efforts!
  • Ensure That Your Tribal Families Have the Technology to Access to Their Children, Services, and Support Networks.
  • Ensure That Tribal Children and Parents Have Meaningful, Frequent Family Time. 
  • Assess Whether Case Plans Need to be Updated and Tailored for Your Tribal Family's Current Situation. 
  • Evaluate if Alternative Placement is Available if Your Tribal Children Are in Congregate Care. 
  • Act Now! Do Not Wait Until the Next Review to Address Active Efforts. 
  • Links to Additional Resources for Providing Active Efforts and Reasonable Services
  Protecting Indian Children 
When I worked as an attorney on my reservation, I was eager to jump into serving my tribal community. My employer, a legal aid program, provided cultural awareness training, but I incorrectly assumed it wasn't necessary for me. In my mind, this was my reservation, this was the community I grew up in, and I knew what I needed for my job. I quickly realized that I grossly misjudged my abilities and learned that I needed to quickly shed my biases and prejudices to effectively serve my clients.

As service providers, it is easy to overlook our personal biases and prejudices and ignore the importance of cultural humility. This is especially true in the child welfare/dependency context as service providers often encounter families in crisis. Service providers may respond with kneejerk reactions as opposed to meeting the family and trying to understand their needs. These inadvertent reactions often cause the family to distrust the service provider and hurt the chance to develop a healthy relationship with the provider.

Learn More
  CILS Program Highlights 

On May 27th CILS recorded a presentation on Guardianships for  Continuing Education of the Bar  (CEB). It went very well and will be available to watch when the editing is done on our youtube channel.
With CILS assistance, in April, HUD approved the Cahuilla Band of Indians to participate in the 184 loan program including the Tribe's Mortgage Lending Code and Lease drafted by CILS. 

Good News Stories
Expunged Convictions
CILS successfully advocated having four convictions for a client expunged, and five separate court fines, court assessments, and administrative fees totaling over $5,000 completely waived and zeroed out.

Repatriation in Orange County
CILS' Escondido office has been working closely with the GabrieleƱo Kizh Band and Caltrans to protect and repatriate over a dozen human remains unearthed during the expansion of the 405 in Orange County. 

Transferring State Case to Tribal Court
CILS' Eureka office transferred a child welfare case from the State of Washington to a CA Tribal Court. The Tribe was not in agreement with the state agency's permanent plan and moved to transfer the case to the Tribe. The matter was transferred to the Tribal child welfare Title IVE agency, and the case will be heard in its Tribal Court. 

CILS Starts Bi-monthly Blog
CILS has started blogging on legal issues distinct to Native Americans. Every month we will add two new articles to the blog on our website.  Our recent articles include ICWA Implementation Shortfalls, Protect Your Cultural Resources, and Where there is a Will, there is a Way.

Termination of Parental Rights
CILS has been working on a depublication request for a recent ICWA case Austin J with possible detrimental effects statewide. The case involves the court finding that the county does not need to inquire into whether a parent is eligible for membership or her children if the parent does not check the box on the ICWA 020 form that they have Indian ancestry even though the parent repeatedly informed the county and the court that she thought she was Cherokee. The Court goes out of its way to say merely saying you maybe Cherokee is not the same as saying my children may be eligible for membership.

We encourage you to think about CILS while you are shopping on Amazon. Give us a big smile because you are making a difference for California Indians that need low cost or free legal services. With your donation through Amazon we can continue to provide legal services to California Indians.

California Indian Legal Services