Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Report: S.D. skirts law protecting Native American children

By Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY

Thirty-two states are failing to abide by the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law passed by Congress in 1978 to stop thousands of Native American children from being forcibly removed from their families and being sent to boarding schools, where they were abused, or into other abusive conditions, a National Public Radio investigation has found.

The problem is most pronounced in South Dakota, NPR reports.

"Cousins are disappearing, family members are disappearing," Peter Lengkeek, a Crow Creek Tribal Council member, tells NPR. "It's kidnapping. That's how we see it."

About 700 Native American children in South Dakota are removed from their homes, some of them under questionable circumstances, NPR finds. The majority of those placed in foster care are sent to non-native homes or group homes, although the Child Welfare Act requires that Native American children must be placed with their relatives or tribes, except in rare circumstances.

South Dakota state officials say they have to do what's in the best interest of the child.

"We come from a stance of safety," Virgena Wieseler of South Dakota's Department of Social Services tells NPR. "That's our overarching goal with all children. If they can be returned to their parent or returned to a relative and be safe and that safety can be managed, then that's our goal."

Critics say the situation appears to be financially lucrative for foster care providers, one of whom has ties with state officials, NPR reports.


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