December 28th, 2012
A Dec. 1, 2012 article in Indian Country Today, reports that a consortium of American Indian tribal directors of Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) programs on Sioux reservations in South Dakota have accused the state of violating the provisions of ICWA. The consortium is filing a report to that effect with Congress.
The report examined and found plausible various allegations from a 2011 National Public Radio story claiming that a large amount of federal dollars flow into South Dakota, thanks to the high proportion of Lakota and Dakota children from the state’s nine Sioux reservations in the foster-care system. In fact, while Sioux children make up only 13.8% of the youthd population of South Dakota, 56.26% of youth in foster care are Indians.
Official disregard for Native cultures exacerbates the situation, according to Terry Yellow Fat, ICWA director for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and co-chair of the consortium of ICWA directors.
Members of Congress pressed the BIA last year to arrange a conference in South Dakota to review the state’s compliance with ICWA. The conference never took place, so ICWA directors took it upon themselves to respond to Congress’s questions and concerns.
The ICWA directors allege that the evidence shows South Dakota is not only taking a disproportionate number of children into custody, it is also failing to ensure that they stay with their tribes, despite ICWA provisions requiring that tribes have a say in their children’s placement. As of July 2011, they said, Native American foster homes sat empty while nearly 9 out of 10 Indian children in state foster care were in non-Native homes.
Congress enacted ICWA in 1978 to stop massive removals of Indian children from their homes and families. During the mid-20th century, as many as one-third of Native children had been taken from their tribes under federal-, state- and church-run programs. In the second decade of the 21st century, despite the passage of ICWA in 1978, American Indian children in states across the country are still taken from their families and placed in foster care or adoptive homes at a much higher rate than other youngsters.