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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tribes on child welfare: We can do it better


Archive photo
Archive photo

But ability to administer foster care has doubters in Indian Country

Jul. 27, 2013, Written by Steve Young

At issue

GRANTS: Members of the Lakota People’s Law Project, a nonprofit that advises Native Americans about Indian Child Welfare violations, say they have been talking to government officials in Washington about money for South Dakota’s nine tribes.
GOAL: Help tribes develop their own foster care and child protection programs.
DIVISION: Though the state says it would support such efforts, there are some involved in tribal child protection who question whether the tribes could successfully run those programs on their own.
Juanita Scherich remembers how they cut her hair, how they made her scrub and wash every day, as if a trim and a bath would take the “Indian” out of a 9-year-old child.
Though it was decades ago, Scherich can’t forget how no one in a string of Rapid City foster homes spoke her native language. How none of them prayed to tunkasila, great spirit-father of the Lakota. How no one offered her even a whiff of her tribal culture.
“I lost everything in 2½ years in foster care,” the Indian Child Welfare Act director for the Oglala Sioux Tribe says. “My language, my culture, I had to relearn it all. That wasn’t right.”
Today, she and tribal officials across South Dakota are prepared to change that. With 35 years of federal ICWA legislation on the books and 80 percent of Native children still showing up in white foster homes, the tribes insist they are ready to take over foster care and child protection services, and to keep more of their children on the reservations.
The key to accomplishing that, they say, is directly accessing federal dollars now being funneled through the state.
“If we had direct funding,” Scherich said, “we would see that more of our children are staying with relatives, staying with our own people.”
But how many federal dollars are they talking about? A National Public Radio series that aired in October 2011 suggested the state receives $100 million a year to subsidize its foster care program. The Coalition of Sioux Tribes for Children and Families and the Lakota People’s Law Project cited that number in a report to Congress in January.
Danny Sheehan, chief counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project, a nonprofit that provides expertise to the Lakota about ICWA violations, suspects the amount is at least in the $56 million range.
“Federal money comes in now to the state under various provisions of Title IV of the Social Security Act,” Sheehan said. “Our best estimate is that 56 percent of the children in foster care are Native Americans. So we’re talking about a good percentage of that $56 million.”

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[I'm still writing more about HOW MUCH I HAVE CHANGED PART 4. This article is part of the research..Trace]

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To Veronica Brown

Veronica, we adult adoptees are thinking of you today and every day. We will be here when you need us. Your journey in the adopted life has begun, nothing can revoke that now, the damage cannot be undone. Be courageous, you have what no adoptee before you has had; a strong group of adult adoptees who know your story, who are behind you and will always be so.

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Thought-provoking and moving 11 October 2012
Two Worlds - Lost children of the Indian Adoption Projects

If you thought that ethnic cleansing was something for the history books, think again. This work tells the stories of Native American Indian adoptees "The Lost Birds" who continue to suffer the effects of successive US and Canadian government policies on adoption; policies that were in force as recently as the 1970's. Many of the contributors still bear the scars of their separation from their ancestral roots. What becomes apparent to the reader is the reality of a racial memory that lives in the DNA of adoptees and calls to them from the past.
The editors have let the contributors tell their own stories of their childhood and search for their blood relatives, allowing the reader to gain a true impression of their personalities. What becomes apparent is that nothing is straightforward; re-assimilation brings its own cultural and emotional problems. Not all of the stories are harrowing or sad; there are a number of heart-warming successes, and not all placements amongst white families had negative consequences. But with whom should the ultimate decision of adoption reside? Government authorities or the Indian people themselves? Read Two Worlds and decide for yourself.

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As the single largest unregulated industry in the United States, adoption is viewed as a benevolent action that results in the formation of “forever families.”
The truth is that it is a very lucrative business with a known sales pitch. With profits last estimated at over $1.44 billion dollars a year, mothers who consider adoption for their babies need to be very aware that all of this promotion clouds the facts and only though independent research can they get an accurate account of what life might be like for both them and their child after signing the adoption paperwork.

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