South Dakota seems to be in flagrant violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law designed to keep American Indian kids with American Indian families. It makes sense. The only way to keep their heritage alive is to keep these kids with the families who can pass traditions on. Not to mention…a family shouldn’t be torn apart for no reason. Many kids are taken away for no reason. Some kids are abandoned, some are abused, but instead of seeking relatives or foster care within the tribe, as federal law seems to require (from what I can tell) they shuttle these kids off to white foster facilities or white foster homes.
Every year, hundreds of Lakota kids in South Dakota are removed from their homes and put not with Lakota families, but in white foster facilities. Here is one story (source)
One afternoon in 2008, Janice Howe—a Dakota Indian—waited at the bus stop for her grandchildren to come home from school. They never arrived.
Earlier that day, a social worker had taken Janice’s grandchildren. They were driven to a white foster facility hundreds of miles away. The reason stated in the case file: a “rumor” that Janice’s daughter, Erin Yellow Robe, had been using drugs. She hadn’t. To this day, Janice’s daughter hasn’t been charged or arrested for drugs—or anything else.
For the next year and a half, Janice fought to get her grandchildren back. She called the state’s director of social services. She wrote letters to the governor. Finally, she convinced her tribal council to threaten the state with kidnapping. A few weeks later, her grandchildren were returned…on a “trial basis.”
Many kids go through sexual and physical abuse in the foster homes. The most heartbreaking case, though, is this one. Four children were removed from a home for ‘neglect’… probably because the family was poor. Many native families are. And one girl, under the age of 10, was sexually assaulted, multiple times, by her foster father. He pled guilty. The child advocates who tried to protect her were persecuted by the state-the attorney was fired and both the child advocate and the attorney were charged with tampering with evidence, etc, etc… (source and more info here.)
It would seem the kids were bullied, harassed by investigators as they tried to get the kids to change their story.
One by one, the children faced Agent Mark Black of the Department of Criminal Investigations and a partner. The children were each alone, without an adult present on their behalf.
While being questioned by the agents, the children became fearful and wept, according to someone familiar with the case who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. The youngsters were apparently not told they were being recorded. While left alone for a time, one explored the room, discovered the camera equipment behind a peephole, and began to cry.
The DCI video of the interrogation is now a court document. In a four-minute excerpt that can be seen on YouTube, the agents are taking a break. They’re off-camera, apparently unaware that the microphone is still picking up their voices as they plan their strategy.
One agent says the children “have been f—ing with us.” The men talk about questioning the therapist to whom the children described the sexual assaults. Agent Black says, “I guarantee we put [her] in here. Put the f—ing hot screws in her. Bitch you’re in f—ing deep shit. You better start talking.” Later Black says, “At least we f— with Brandon.”
Why does this happen? I don’t know… but look at this.
National Public Radio broadcast a scathing report, charging South Dakota with rampant taking of American Indian children into foster care. The network said the state receives $100 million dollars annually in federal funds on behalf of foster children of all races, giving it an incentive to keep the numbers of children in care high. (source)
However, in the politics of South Dakota’s royally screwed-up Native foster care system, where separating Lakota children from their families for “neglect” (read: poverty) is a lucrative proposition for the state, bringing in thousands of dollars per child in federal aid, getting in the way can get you thrown under the bus. (source)
The Lakota People’s Law Project is petitioning Congress to investigate South Dakota’s abuse of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
A 1976 study by the Association on American Indian Affairs found that 25 to 35% of all Indian children were being placed in out-of-home care. Eighty-five percent of those children were being placed in non-Indian homes or institutions. (source)
This is why that law was created…to keep the families and tribes together.
The state has no right to violate federal law.
Why in the hell is this tolerated?