The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued information regarding approval, payment and placement preservation of Tribally Approved Homes. A Tribally Approved Home is a home licensed or approved by an Indian child’s tribe or organization designated by the tribe, for foster or adoptive placement of an Indian child. Tribally Approved Homes are not subject to state approval standards. Tribes have independent authority to approved homes according to their own standards and are not subject to Resource Family Approval Standards.
The county social worker or probation officer should request confirmation from the tribe that the tribe has approved a home. The tribe must provide written documentation that the home has been approved. Indian children placed in a Tribally Approved Home qualify for foster care if the Tribally Approved Home meets minimum federal standards prior to placement. Those requirements are a home health and safety assessment meeting the tribe’s standards, and a criminal records check meeting specified conditions. Federally recognized tribes now have the ability to receive state and federal criminal histories and can be approved to conduct their own background checks. If a federally recognized tribe does not have authority to conduct their own background checks, the tribe must ask either the county or CDSS to conduct the background check.
If there are multiple children being placed and one child is not a member of the tribe approving the Tribally Approved Home, the home must meet Resource Family Approval standards. The Resource Family Approval program allows for placement prior to approval, and allows a county to approve care of a specific child when the placement may be the only appropriate placement because of family or tribal relationship.
Tribes are encouraged to establish a complaint process. If there is a complaint filed against a Tribally Approved Home, the county and tribal agency must work together to address the concerns. If there is abuse or neglect where there is a potential risk to the health or safety of a child, a report to child welfare services must be made. County probation and child welfare services can investigate, but cannot terminate the tribe’s approval of a home. If the tribe terminates approval of a home, the tribe must notify the county within 24-48 hours and give written notification to the county. If the tribe terminates a home, the county must evaluate whether the home will be approved under Resource Family Approval.
If a change in placement is being considered, a placement preservation strategy is required prior to issuance of a 14 day notice of placement change. Any placement change must comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Counties may place a child in a home pending tribal approval upon completion of a health and safety inspection, a criminal background check and a check of allegations of prior abuse or neglect.
Children placed in a Tribally Approved Home, or a home pending tribal approval, are eligible for foster care payments. If a child is place on an emergency basis, the county should determine if the child is eligible for emergency caregiver funding. (ACL 19-71, July 29, 2019.)