State foster care system: Still taking our children from us

We have a long history of our children being taken from us. Residential boarding schools & coerced adoptions were attempts at breaking the link to our heritage and culture. Today this continues with social services. State and federal agencies interfere in our familial lives, allegedly for our own good. Really its a paternalistic system that tells us we don’t know what’s best for our own children.

This attack on Native people’s comes from two directions, really. The first is the attack on our traditional forms of social organization, our clans & bands. It was our clans, bands and extended family networks that took care of “social service” issues in the past. But the state doesn’t like competition, so it has actively suppressed the influence of clans in our lives over the years. In their place we have received social services and welfare; a poor trade that has kept us largely impoverished.

The story below is the end result of this process: families are no longer allowed to take care of their own children. I call this state sponsored kidnapping. It is done under the threat of violence. Would we be justified in gathering together a war party to retrieve a stolen child? I think so, but it really depends on your perspective. It depends on the strength of your tribe. It depends on the narrative you tell yourself and your people. Where do you’re primary loyalties lie? Is your tribe or clan willing to challenge the legitimacy of non Native institutions in our own lands?Are the men willing to defend their nation? Are the women willing to support and encourage them? A more peaceful solution here.


Incentives And Cultural Bias Fuel Foster System

The people who live here are poor — in a way few Americans are poor. There are no grocery stores or restaurants. There’s only electricity when it’s possible to pay the bill.

This is where Janice Howe grew up, on a barren stretch of land that has belonged to the Dakota people for more than 100 years.

“I’m the eldest of nine kids,” she explains, settling into a chair in the kitchen. “I went to college and I got my bachelor’s degree in nursing.”

Her sister lives across the street. Her parents live across the road. Her daughter lives two doors down with her four grandchildren — two young granddaughters and two twin babies.

Key Findings Of This Investigation

* Each year, South Dakota removes an average of 700 Native American children from their homes. Indian children are less than 15 percent of state’s the child population, but make up more than half the children in foster care.

* Despite the Indian Child Welfare Act, which says Native American children must be placed with their family members, relatives, their tribes or other Native Americans, native children are more than twice as likely to be sent to foster care as children of other races, even in similar circumstances.

* Nearly 90 percent of Native American children sent to foster care in South Dakota are placed in non-native homes or group care.

* Less than 12 percent of Native American children in South Dakota foster care had been physically or sexually abused in their homes, below the national average. The state says parents have “neglected” their children, a subjective term. But tribe leaders tell NPR what social workers call neglect is often poverty; and sometimes native tradition.

* A close review of South Dakota’s budget shows that they receive almost $100 million a year to subsidize its foster care program.

And then one evening two years ago, Howe’s phone rang.

It was a social worker from the Department of Social Services. She said her daughter Erin Yellow Robe was going to be arrested for drugs.

Howe couldn’t believe it. She had never seen any sign of drugs or any other problems.

And then the social worker changed Howe’s life. She said she was coming to take Howe’s grandchildren away.

The next morning, a car pulled up outside Yellow Robe’s house. Howe’s daughter wouldn’t let go of her one-year-old twin babies. She kept saying she hadn’t done anything wrong.

The social worker buckled the babies into car seats.

“They were sitting in the cars,” Howe says, choking up. “They were just looking at me. Because you know most babies don’t cry if they’re raised in a secure environment. So I went out there and took their diaper bags. And they left.”

But as Howe watched the car pull around the bend, she realized the social worker took the two babies, but allowed Howe to keep her two granddaughters, 5-year-old Rashauna and 6-year-old Antoinette.

“I thought that was weird,” Howe says. “I just thought, why can’t I keep them all?”

A Mandate To Keep Children Connected

Howe, other relatives and other members of the tribe all wanted the children. And federal law says they should have gotten them. The Indian Child Welfare Act mandates that, except in the rarest circumstances, Indian children must be placed with relatives, a tribal member or at the very least, another Native American. It also says the state must make every effort to first keep a family together with services and programs.

Read the Rest


About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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5 Responses to State foster care system: Still taking our children from us

  1. seedofjapheth says:

    Many kids in foster care are preyed upon by psychiatrists and prescribed all sorts of drugs. The rate of psychiatric drugging among foster care children is much higher than the non-foster care population.

    I don’t know much about the situation reservations find themselves in but from what I here it seems like the parasitic jobs associated with the government have got involved with the reservations to a high degree.

    These government agencies are useless and suck up so much money from the taxpayer. I hate them.

    I really have no idea what the best form of government is. Capitalism seems to be destroying the environment. However the forces of government are so corrupt that socialism seems like a bad idea too. I just don’t trust giving the government all the power. I wonder if there is a system of government that does not destroy the environment and yet also respects peoples liberty.

    I feel so angry reading about this scum who is abducting children from their parents.

    • Vince says:

      I think any form of government beyond a certain size will become malicious: capitalism, socialism & even democracy. Another way to put it is that anyone who advocates for a single government with a single form for 300 million people should be considered bat shit insane!

      I’m of the belief that government functions should be broken down to the lowest, most local, most culturally relevant level possible. For American Indians that means our bands, clans and tribes; basically extended family groups. For other parts of the country that may mean small town hall style democracy. I think the key would be to not let any of these localized “governments” dominate or subjugate a neighbor. And also to allow for enough diversity across the country so that a young gay man brought up in a conservative town ruled by a fire and brimstone board of church elders can escape to a place where his rights will be protected. Same going the other way; communities ought to be allowed to protect themselves from outside influences they deem harmful. That same conservative small town may not want drugs in their community. Or the gay community may not want a church in their community telling their people that they are wicked sinners who need to give up their evil ways.

      In that vein, you can see the corollary with a state foster care system coming into a Native American community taking people’s children away from them because they claim to know better.

      The answer is likely a process of discovery at the local level. What works for your community? What doesn’t? Just some thoughts.

      • seedofjapheth says:

        I see what your saying. Some people say that the federal government is too powerful and the antidote to that is more state rights. That would be a good first step but the power of individual states over the local communities in those states would be bad too and so the power of the individual state would have to be combatted with granting more rights to various cities and towns and reservations.

        I don’t understand though how a state foster care system can come onto reservation land. I thought that reservations had there own police force and stuff like that and outside police forces weren’t allowed on tribal land. And so I was under the impression that if there was going to be a social services that can come onto reservation land it would have to be a social services run by the tribe itself.

  2. Vince says:

    And that’s just the issue: Sovereign Tribal Nations are not really sovereign when it comes down to it. Our rights as nations exist largely at the whim of the Federal Government. In some cases, the feds will intervene when a state is overstepping its jurisdictional boundaries, in some cases it won’t. Some things the feds allow us to do, some things they don’t. We can have casinos, but we can’t legalize drugs or even grow hemp. Furthermore, some of the very same tribal governments that call for more sovereignty will also ask for more money from the feds to run social service programs, economic development, & build or fix infrastructure. The net effect is that many of our reservations are run as corrupt little state level governments. Usually you have a few families running tribal government, directing funds, hiring their family members, giving themselves raises, etc. while very little changes for the average tribal member. You might get an update to the grade school or some shoddily built HUD homes, but no real, actual change.

    So are we sovereign or not? I advocate for true sovereignty; kick the feds off our land, tell them to take their federal dollars and shove it, topple our corrupt tribal governments, return our land and resources to clan/band control in the form of a commons that will allow even the poorest of poor to make a living for themselves, rid ourselves of the crutch that is welfare and start taking care of one another, build resilient, local economies and take control of our lives.

    Our ancestors trekked across this continent, slayed great beasts for food, built shelter with our bare hands, made a rich & prosperous living in regions where Americans fear to tread, and developed a beautiful culture & highly developed form of anarchic, clan based self governance. The US Government took all that from us, but we can take it back. Add a little strategically placed modern technology to our tribal lives and we ought to prosper!

    • seedofjapheth says:

      These problems your mentioning is one of the reason I am suspicious of the occupy wall street movement. Some of them are asking to give the state even more power so that the state can give them money to pay off the debts they have acquired through student loans or whatever.

      I am sympathetic to the occupy wall street people because there are so many things wrong in the country that people need to be on the street protesting stuff and I know that the people on occupy wall street don’t agree on everything. But still they need to think about the ramifications of what they ask for.

      But as far as the whole federal money thing goes I recall about a couple months ago the cherokees wanted to excommunicate people from their tribe who had no cherokee blood. And there were some descendants of “black freedmen” who had no documented cherokee blood and those black freedmen with no cherokee blood were kicked out of the tribe. The federal government didn’t like this so they threatened to stop giving the tribe federal money. And eventually the leaders of the tribe decided to give in to federal demands and allowed back into the tribe black freedmen with no cherokee blood.

      If you are not familiar with the story or the situation the black freedmen are the descendants of slaves owned by the cherokees. The cherokees didn’t kick out all black freedman, they only kicked out those black freedmen who had no documented cherokee blood. The federal government considered what they did racist anyways.

      All these issues though ca be tied into the issue of masculinity. It seems like men everywhere, of all ethnic groups, have been to a degree castrated in one way or another. And I don’t blame that on feminism. I am in many ways am a feminist. But what I am saying is that as men become less manly the power of the state increases.

      This can be observed in terms of looking at the history of the USA. It used to be that if boys got in fights no one made a big deal about it. But nowadays(at least where I live) teachers turn it into this huge issue. But I’ve just noticed that men seem to be more wimpy than they used to be and that also the government is a lot bigger than it used to be.

      This thing is most easily illustrated by observing the black community. Men in the black community used to provide for their families. Then the government put much of the black population on welfare and as a result black men don’t stick around as much and perform their fatherly duties. They feel like their role as men has been usurped by the government and that they have been emasculated.

      So ultimately it seems that any movement to decrease the size and power of government would have to be accompanied by a movement of men to rediscover their own masculinity.

      If one examines history one will notice that whenever a group of people is conquered by another people what happens is the men in the conquered tribe or race or ethnic group end up being either killed or castrated(the castrated males being ones who would be put into slavery).

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