Nov 8 12:47 PM

Six things you need to know about Native adoption

Friday, Nov. 8 at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time, our new “Fault Lines” episode “The Fight for Native Families” airs on Al Jazeera America. 

We will have more from the episode in the coming week as it repeats on Al Jazeera America on Nov. 9, 2013, 7 p.m. Eastern and premieres on Al Jazeera English on Nov. 13, 2013.

 Join us as we live-tweet this episode Friday from our main Twitter account, @ajfaultlines

Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families,” a three-part investigation. Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters for NPR, Oct. 25, 2011 

“Nearly 700 Native American children in South Dakota are being removed from their homes every year, sometimes under questionable circumstances. An NPR News investigation has found that the state is largely failing to place them according to the law. The vast majority of native kids in foster care in South Dakota are in nonnative homes or group homes, according to an NPR analysis of state records.”

S. Dakota Indian Foster Care 1: Investigative Storytelling Gone Awry.” Edward Schumacher-Matos fro NPR, Aug. 9, 2013 

“The two sides — the state and the reporters — stuck to hugely separate versions of not just interpretation, but also of what would seem to be easily measurable facts. I finally resolved in the spaces between other posts to slowly re-report parts of a major investigation that had taken the journalists themselves a year.”

Native Americans trade tales of heartache, anger over displaced children,” Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, for Rapid City Journal, May 16, 2013

“Between choked sobs and streaming tears, more than a dozen Native American families delivered testimony Wednesday in Rapid City about how their children were taken from them by South Dakota social workers. Those stories from parents — specifically details about the difficulty in regaining custody of Native children placed in non-Native foster homes — filled the first day of the Great Plains Indian Child Welfare Act Summit in Rapid City.

More than 250 people from reservations and organizations across the Midwest were at the Ramkota Hotel and Convention Center for the conference. Wednesday focused on testimony from families about alleged violations by South Dakota under the Indian Child Welfare Act. Today and Friday will focus on potential solutions.

The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted in 1978 to protect Native culture and tribal identity from the unnecessary removal of Native children by state and federal agencies. South Dakota tribal officials allege that South Dakota has violated the law since its inception, but those complaints have gained new impetus after an expose by National Public Radio in 2011. The Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes, along with three Native American parents, filed a lawsuit against the state two months ago.”

Broken Promises," Byron L. Dorgan for The New York Times op-ed, July 10, 2013. 

“The rate of suicide among American Indian youth is nearly four times the national average, and is as high as 10 times the average in many tribal communities across the Great Plains. At the same time, mental health services are being cut as a result of sequestration, with Pine Ridge losing at least one provider this year.

The youth center on the reservation is closed because of lack of funding. Money for the summer youth program, which pays high school students to work during their break, has also been eliminated.

I met a 12-year-old homeless girl at the emergency youth shelter. Her mother is dead. She doesn’t know the identity of her father. She’s been in multiple foster homes and been repeatedly sexually abused. She found safety in the shelter, but its funding is being cut because of sequestration — an indiscriminate budget ax, I might add, that was thought of as so unconscionable when I was in the Senate that it would never have been seriously considered.”

Tribes fight to keep Indian children at home,” Christina Rose for Native Sun News, April 12, 2013

“For years before filing the lawsuit, ICWA agencies struggled to retain their children. Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe ICWA Director Diane Garreau has worked at the Children’s Emergency Shelter for close to seven years. When she started, she saw hundreds if not thousands of children removed from the reservations each year. But since then, Garreau said that the efforts of the Cheyenne River tribe have begun to have an impact in their area.

Through CRST Children’s Emergency Shelter, ICWA has been able to keep the majority of the children on the reservation, even if a suitable foster family within the family or tribe can’t be found. “When I first started ten years ago the social service workers were not cooperative, but a lot of that has changed,” Garreau said.

Over the last seven or eight years, the CRST tribe has made a concerted effort to keep the children on the reservation through transferring the jurisdiction back from the state to the tribe. “We proved we know what we’re doing,” Garreau said.”

Tribe takes control of child welfare from state,” Jennifer Sullivan for The Seattle Times. March 28, 2012

The Port Gamble S’Klallam is the first Native-American tribe in the nation to start running all of its child guardianships, foster care and adoptions. The agreement with the federal government essentially severed any oversight by the state Department of Social and Health Services …

In 2008, Congress passed legislation allowing tribes to establish and oversee guardianships, foster care and adoptions if they meet criteria established by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, Trope said. Under Title IV-E, Health and Human Services offered $187 million to support adoption-assistance and foster-care programs in the United States.

"It’s been a difficult process for some tribes because it’s a mutual learning curve: the tribes learning more about Title IV-E and the federal government learning more about how to implement this," Trope said. "As a tribe you have to decide that you’re ready, willing and able to handle federal requirements. We have many tribes who are watching Port Gamble."

Further reading:

Indian Country Today Media Network, Baby Veronica Coverage

South Dakota Parents and Tribes Sue Over Unlawful Separation of Children From Families,” ACLU, March 21, 2013

Tribes Take on Youth Suicide With Skits, Ceremonies and Mustangs,” Stephanie Woodard for Indian Country Today, Jan. 9, 2013

Tribes on child welfare: We can do it better,” Steve Young for the Sioux Falls Business Journal, July 27, 2013

Two Worlds: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects,” by Trace DeMeyer

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