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South Dakota Violates Human and Federal Rights
of Lakota Families to Foster Their Own Children.
Several recent reports have confirmed the following disturbing facts:
1) Disproportionate Treatment: While Lakota children make up less than 15% of the child population in South Dakota, over 50% of the children in state foster care are Lakota. The Indian Child Welfare Act was written by former South Dakota Senator Abourezk precisely to fix this problem nationally, but S.D. still ignores the law.
2) Non-Native Foster Homes: South Dakota places upwards of 90% of Lakota foster children in non-Native homes. South Dakota is grossly violating the Indian Child Welfare Act, which mandates that “active efforts” be taken to return children to their families or relatives. At the same time, numerous licensed Indian foster homes sit empty.
3) Cultural Bias: Culturally biased policies and state workers continue the cultural genocide of our Lakota people. Our grandmothers and relatives, who our children should be returned to, are disqualified from a “foster license” for trivial and capricious reasons. The state’s reasons for rejecting grandparents include: too small of a home, too old, too poor, decades old crimes, rumors, not enough bedrooms in a home, etc. These standards are culturally biased against the realities of living on the reservation.
4) Over- Medication: Even South Dakota recently acknowledged that children in state custody have been over-medicated with powerful anti-psychotic drugs. South Dakota spent eleven times more on prescription drugs for Native American foster care children in 2009 than it did in 1999. The number of prescriptions for Native American foster children more than tripled during the period. There is still NO oversight, and parents can't stop the state from over-medicating foster children!
5) Poverty is Not Neglect: Since the South Dakota Legislature recently redefined “neglect”, the percentage of children seized for “neglect” in the state has skyrocketed to 95.8%. Testimony from Natives people provides evidence that often times white D.S.S. workers view poverty as neglect.
6) Sexual Abuse: Two child advocates, Brandon Taliaferro and Shirley Schwab, were prosecuted by the state this winter for trying to help Lakota foster children who were being sexually abused by Richard Mette. Mette was only sentenced to 5 years in jail. Taliaferro was fired, and both he and Ms. Schwab were prosecuted for witness tampering. Their case was finally thrown out for lack out of evidence. This is how the DSS and the Attorney General treated those who tried to help Native foster children.
Foster Care Programs Run by the Tribes,
Not The State.
1) Planning Grants: South Dakota Tribes need federal planning grants to prepare to accept direct federal funds to run their own tribal foster care programs. In 2008, five of the South Dakota tribes worked with Lakota People’s Law Project to solicit $300,000 planning grants, under the new Baucus Bill—the grants went to other tribes. It is time for Lakota tribes to be a priority.
2) Federal Funding: Until tribes have federal funding, South Dakota needs to change its Native American Foster Parent and Kinship Care Provider Licensing Standards. These standards currently exclude people who do not have a big enough house, or enough rooms. The current standards do not reflect the realities of living on the reservation, and are biased against many potential Native foster parents.
3) Kinship Care: South Dakota must make kinship care financially equal to foster care. Other states do. Right now, most Native American relatives, or “kin”, who would take care of their relative children can only receive money through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. These payments are a fraction of what non-relative foster care parent payouts are.
4) Enforce ICWA: The Indian Child Welfare Act placement clause needs to be enforceable in court. Right now, relatives who have been denied access to their children can’t sue the state in federal court, even though the state is breaking federal law.
Let's Take Back Our Children and Heal Our Families!
The Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe has already led the way- they run a successful tribal foster care program funded with direct Title IV-E funds from the federal government, NOT the state.
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