CWU News

CWU Student Named Aspen Institute's Champion for Change

Central Washington University student Autumn Adams was named one of five 2019Autumn Adams Champions For Change--a policy program of The Aspen Institute's Center for Native American Youth.

Adams, a senior majoring in anthropology with minors in museum studies and American Indian studies, will spend five days in Washington D.C. meeting with house representatives and senators on her platform Indian Child Welfare Act.

The platform is dear to Adams’ heart having been in foster care, herself.

“If it weren’t for that Act, I probably wouldn’t be able to be part of my culture anymore or have my sibling be as close as they are to me now,” said Adams.

Her mom left the family during her senior year in high school. At age 19, Adams gained legal custody of her two younger siblings, now 14-- and 10-years-old, and has been their sole support since. She’s maintained her role as student, advocate, sibling, and guardian for the past three years.

The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted in 1978, as a response to the high number of Indian children being removed from their families and placed in white homes off the reservation.

Adams, who is a member of the Yakama Nation said up to 35 percent of Indian children in the U.S. were removed from their homes during this time, often unwarranted, and unable to maintain their cultural heritage.

Since then, the Act protects Indian children and provides strict guidelines on the removal and placement of them into homes which reflect the unique values of Indian culture. Placements are prioritized to remain with the Indian child’s extended family, then other members of the tribe, or other families on the reservation.

“The Indian Child Welfare Act is considered to be the gold standard for foster care,” said Adams.

During her visit to D.C., February 10-15, Adams will meet with Washington Congressman Dan Newhouse, Congresswoman Dr. Kim Schrier, Senator Patty Murray, and Senator Maria Cantwell.

The McNair Scholar plans to continue her education after she graduates in June. Adams will pursue a graduate degree in public policy along with a juris doctorate with the goal of serving in the house or senate.

“I’m not doing it for myself, I’m doing it to set an example for my brother and sister,” Adams said. “They see everything I do firsthand and I don’t want them to think they can’t do something because of their background.” 

Media contact: Dawn Alford, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1484,