7. Indian Child Placement Preferences and Relative Search

Approval: Jennifer Strus, Assistant Secretary

Original Date: September 1, 1991

Revised Date: September 12, 2016

Policy Review: June 30, 2020


To follow federal and state Indian Child Welfare Acts governing where Indian children may be placed in out-of-home care.


RCW 13.38.180 Placement Preferences

25 U.S.C 21 § 1915 Placement of Indian children

RCW 13.34.260 Foster Home Placement - Parental Preferences

25 CFR Part 23 Bureau of Indian Affairs ICWA Regulations

Indian children are exempt from the requirements of the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) and the Inter-Ethnic Adoption Provisions (IEAP), 42 USC 671a.

25 C.F.R. § 23.132 How a determination of “good cause” to depart from placement preferences is made


This policy applies to Division of Children and Family Services staff.


The CA caseworker will:

  1. Follow federal and Washington state laws from initial placement through case closure/adoption when an Indian child is placed in out-of-home care.
  2. If an Indian child is placed in out-of-home care, discuss with the parent(s) or the Indian custodian his or her placement preferences and follow federal and state ICWA placement preferences or any applicable tribal MOU unless the child's tribe identifies a different order of preference. Placement must be a good faith effort to be in a location where the parent can have regular access to the child without undue economic, physical, or cultural hardship. RCW 13.38.180. Without good cause the placement selected cannot be based solely on a person’s socio-economic status. 25 C.F.R. § 23.132
  3. Follow the wishes of the parent where appropriate. The preference of the Indian child or parent shall be considered, provided that where a consenting parent indicates a desire for anonymity, the worker shall give weight to that desire in applying the placement preferences. 25 U.S.C. Sec. 1915(c); RCW 13.38.180(5).
  4. Place with other siblings or in close proximity to siblings, unless the placement would cause serious physical or emotional harm to one or more of the children; and follow CA Practices and Procedures Parent, Child, and Sibling Visits policy.
  5. Coordinate emergent and non-emergent placements of an Indian child with the tribal child welfare agency prior to or within one business day of placement.
  6. Conduct a diligent search for a suitable placement, to include contact with the tribe(s) if known, within the order of preference before considering a non-preferred placement.
  7. Complete the relative search process per CA Practices and Procedures Relative Placement policy when an Indian child is placed in out-of-home care.


Located on the CA intranet

  • Extended Relative Search Referral DSHS 15-325
  • Relative Search Letter DSHS 15-330


Relative Search documents located on the CA intranet under CFWS or Intake and CPS programs:

  • A Parent’s Guide to Relative Search
  • Protocol for Completing Relative Search Requests
  • Creating and Monitoring Your Relative Search Request
  • Guidelines for Reasonable Efforts to Locate Children and/or Parents