Part One of Three Part NPR Investigation in ICWA Compliance

Utterly devastating.

Here. An excerpt:

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.

Derrin Yellow Robe, 3, stands in his great-grandparents' back yard on the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota. Along with his twin sister and two older sisters, he was taken off the reservation by South Dakota's Department of Social Services in July of 2009 and spent a year and a half in foster care before being returned to his family.

John Poole/NPR

Derrin Yellow Robe, 3, stands in his great-grandparents’ back yard on the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota. Along with his twin sister and two older sisters, he was taken off the reservation by South Dakota’s Department of Social Services in July of 2009 and spent a year and a half in foster care before being returned to his family.

6 thoughts on “Part One of Three Part NPR Investigation in ICWA Compliance

  1. Cathleen October 25, 2011 / 7:20 pm

    How do I contact Janice Howe? I lived and worked for a year in a palestinian refugee camp in Jordan and I have Cherokee blood and I want to help these families and children some way. I can be reached at My name is Cathleen Butler.

  2. Lisa Coppedge October 26, 2011 / 12:35 am

    I think it is past time that Native Peoples demand an accounting of Social Services in South Dakota. While I fully understand that sometimes it is necessary to place children in foster care this system is clearly broken. There is no reason for native kids to be placed with white families when there are native ones available. Also if they are placed in white families why are they not observing the culture and religion of these young people? We would never allow a Christian child to be forced attend native rituals or a Muslim child to become a Jew. The idea that their culture and religion is devalued enrages me. Maybe its time to take our children and lands back because clearly the white world is messing them up badly.

  3. Hank October 26, 2011 / 9:55 am

    Now that the investigation results are in, what’s the next step? What actions are being taken?

  4. Steven Campbell October 27, 2011 / 5:02 pm

    Amen, Oyate rise up! The people need a strong new voice. What about a Si Tanka walk-ride for the Takoja, across SD West River to East River.
    Tribes need to demand their own IV-E Foster Care Programs funded by the Administration of Children and Families on a government to government relationship. Take over the DSS function in workable phases, State CPS should not be on Tribal lands. Allowing the State to run a sovereign Nations Child Welfare system is just not acceptable. Open Urban Tribal ICWA Offices in Rapid and Sioux Falls. Employ Native social work professionals.
    Hire professional Judges for Tribal Court that are recognized by the Oyate as having extensive experience in Native child rearing practices.
    Adopt a Tribal State Agreement concerning ICWA like Minnesota has. Tribal children are citizens of SD too, and are entitled to all the services of any other child of the State.

  5. Lisa Coppedge October 29, 2011 / 7:07 am

    Nothing will happen. It rarely does. For years native peoples told the government that priests were abusing our children. They never cared or looked into it. The same will happen with this. It won’t matter until its white/or black children that are taken and white or black families that are destroyed. The have had many years to address the issue. However its easier to violate tribal law and independence then to properly deal with them. A few years back I inquired about adopting in South Dakota but they quoted ICWA to me. Which I am now finding ironic as they don’t follow it at all. I am native but an adopted and lack the paperwork to say that I am. So I am classified as white and unable to adopt native kids. Ironic I think given the mess SD is in now. Personally I have no real problem with white families adopting as long as they raise the kids to know who they are and in the way their families might want. Providing of course they truly need to be taken. My mom and dad are and were white but they made sure I knew who I was. They did the best they could given the time period. Now days it be a lot easier I thing given the resources we have. That being said I know a lot of native families who would love to foster or adopt why are they not being allowed to do so? That is what concerns me the most.

  6. Bethany Berger November 14, 2011 / 9:43 am

    In 2008 Congress amended Title IV-E to make it easier for tribes to get funding directly for foster care and adoption funding. The South Dakota statistics are shocking. Tribes need to take over child protective services on their reservations.

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