Marshall Project and NPR on How Alaska OCS Stole Millions from Alaska Native Foster Kids

If you, like me, enjoy starting your day with the clarifying anger of a thousand white hot fires, may I recommend this article on how various state agencies rerouted foster children’s SSI benefits to pay for their own foster care–especially impacting Alaska Native children. A few of those children are highlighted in this article:

The Marshall Project and NPR have found that in at least 36 states and Washington, D.C., state foster care agencies comb through their case files to find kids entitled to these benefits, then apply to Social Security to become each child’s financial representative, a process permitted by federal regulations. Once approved, the agencies take the money, almost always without notifying the children, their loved ones or lawyers.

At least 10 state foster care agencies hire for-profit companies to obtain millions of dollars in Social Security benefits intended for the most vulnerable children in their care each year, according to a review of hundreds of pages of contract documents. A private firm that Alaska used while Hunter was in state care referred to acquiring benefits from people with disabilities as “a major line of business” in company records.

Some states also take veterans’ benefits from children with a parent who died in the military, though this has become less common as casualties have declined since the Iraq War.

Alaska Tribal Court Selected for Dependency Court Project

The Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Child Dependency Court under the leadership of Judge Debra O’Gara been selected by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) as one of six new courts to join their Implementation Sites Project, which helps to improve outcomes for abused and neglected children and their families.

Full press release available here alaska-implementation-pr-final-02232017.

From the release:

The NCJFCJ Implementation Sites Project, which is funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, provides child abuse and neglect courts with training, technical assistance and support to guide program improvement, sustainability and performance. As part of their involvement in this project, Implementation Sites are expected to implement meaningful change, evaluate progress as well as share challenges and successes with other courts across the country.

“Tribal justice systems are growing and evolving to address to the needs and issues of tribal communities. It is vitally important that tribal courts continue to learn, benefit, and share information through the NCJFCJ’s Implementation Site Project,” said Nikki Borchardt Campbell, Executive Director of the National American Indian Judges Court Association.

The Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Child Dependency Court, in Juneau, Alaska, began last year through an extensive partnership with the Tribal and Youth Services and the State of Alaska Office of Children Services. In the last decade, the Tribe’s court system has grown quickly beginning with child welfare including child support and paternity cases. Recently, the Tribal court has begun to hear domestic violence protection orders, custody, divorce, guardianship, and adoption cases. The Tribal court is also developing a juvenile wellness court, focused primarily on early intervention and prevention for youth whom are at risk of being involved in the criminal justice system.

“Being a part of the NCJFCJ’s Implementation Sites Project will not only help grow and expand our Tribal court in the child welfare area of services, but would greatly benefit our court’s needs for technical assistance, practical tools, and collaborative assessment,” said the Honorable Debra O’Gara, lead judge of the project.

“We look forward to collaborating with the NCJFCJ to strengthen the court’s infrastructure through data collection, forms and templates, staff training, and greater access to current research and trends in child and family needs to build up the infrastructure to handle the growing case load. I firmly believe that we have much to learn from the knowledge and experience of other judges and courts around the nation on how to best expand and improve the court’s outcomes for our children and families.”