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
LAURA SULLIVAN and AMY WALTERS
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.