Assistant Professor Melanie Sage and colleague publish article, "Operationalizing ICWA compliance to improve Native American child & family outcomes"

Published July 8, 2022


Melanie Sage

Melanie Sage.

Kudos to Assistant Professor Melanie Sage and her colleague on the publication of their article, "Operationalizing ICWA compliance to improve Native American child & family outcomes" in the Juvenile & Family Court Journal.

Sage, M., & Barkdull, C. (2022). Operationalizing ICWA compliance to improve Native American child and family outcomes. Juvenile & Family Court Journal.



The 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a federal law enacted to prevent the unnecessary removal of tribal children from their families and cultures. This methodological report describes how a research team operationalized court compliance with ICWA through a statewide record audit conducted over three years in a Midwestern state.


We designed an ICWA Compliance Checklist to serve as a basis for evaluating ICWA compliance and used it to assess court records. We analyzed the process of developing a compliance tool and documented the lessons learned.


Methodological difficulties included matching research strategies to available data and negotiating the project's scope with the partners. However, the Checklist provided a unique opportunity to report on statewide compliance and shape local practice.


Amid increasing calls for the use of system data, social work scholars can consider strategies for a successful research partnership and bring an advocacy perspective to the assessment of public data, especially regarding sovereignty issues.