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Monday, March 29, 2010

Kinship care missing from survey

Seneca tribal expert not surprised by foster numbers

Native American Times, June 6, 2006 - The head of a non-profit organization that works towards the benefit of Native American children and their families was not surprised to learn that more minorities are amenable to the idea of accepting foster children into their home.

An ABC News/Time national poll on foster care issues in 2006 showed 31% of minority members surveyed answered “Yes,” when asked “Would you seriously consider becoming a foster parent or adopting a foster child, or not?” compared to 19% of Caucasians.

Terry L. Cross, executive director of the Portland-based National Indian Child Welfare Association and an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation New York, said the results have their roots in cultural backgrounds.

“Cultural norms, including sustaining strong extended families, handing down of culture and traditions, and establishing a positive identity, contribute to perceptions of our foster care system and notions of your place within that system. What is missing from the survey is how many people would support ‘kinship care,’ or relative care, over foster care placements in a stranger’s home,” Cross said.

Cross said kinship care is considered by most to be a cultural norm of Indian Country, and when a crisis arises other family members step in to share the burden of taking care of the children. Given a choice of a child being removed from a home due to maltreatment and being placed in a licensed foster home with strangers in a new community, Cross said, it appears most Indians will choose informal kinship care arrangements, even if it means little financial support for the kinship caregivers.

The association that Cross heads up has been working to change laws preventing children in the custody of tribal courts from receiving the benefits and protections that the association says are currently available to all other children. Congress in 1980 enacted the Foster Care and Adoption Assistance Act, which provides entitlement funding for foster care and adoption assistance services for income-eligible children who are placed by state agencies or public agencies with which the state has an agreement. Children who are under the jurisdiction of their tribe and are placed by tribal courts and agencies are not included in the program. The funds are only available to tribes who have entered into agreements with their respective states, with critics charging these agreements are often limited in scope and may only allow the tribes access to one portion of the program.

Various lawmakers have spoken out against the law.

“All children deserve to have a loving, nurturing home where their basic needs are met”, Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR). “Native American children placed in foster care or adopted through tribal placements should have all the resources available to children placed by state services. This bill makes that happen.”

The nonpartisan Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care has recommended providing tribes with federal child welfare funding.

The association is also pushing to prevent the practice of completely removing children from their home, believing that doing so leads to severing any contact with parents. The Indian Child Welfare Act mandates that the child’s tribe must be notified when placing a Native American youngster in foster care.

[Source: Native American Times, June 6, 2006, www.nativetimes.com]

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