It’s Still Happening

Another installation of a year-long NPR investigation on the high rates of Native American children in the foster care system in South Dakota.

From 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.

Years ago, thousands of Native American children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools, where the motto by its founder was “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” Children lost touch with their culture, traditions and families. Many suffered horrible abuse, leaving entire generations missing from the one place whose future depended on them – their tribes.

In 1978, Congress tried to put a stop to it. They passed the Indian Child Welfare Act, which says except in the rarest circumstances, Native American children must be placed with their relatives or tribes. It also says states must do everything it can to keep native families together.

But 32 states are failing to abide by the act in one way or another, and an NPR investigation has found, nowhere is that more apparent than in South Dakota.

And there’s more:

State officials say they have to do what’s in the best interest of the child, but the state does have a financial incentive to remove the children. The state receives thousands of dollars from the federal government for every child it takes from a family, and in some cases the state gets even more money if the child is Native American. [my emphasis] The result is that South Dakota is now removing children at a rate higher than the vast majority of other states in the country.

Native American families feel the brunt of this. Their children make up less than 15 percent of the child population, yet they make up more than half of the children in foster care.

Some days reading articles like this gets me fired up, ready to dive into the nitty gritty ugliness of the whole system and try to change it.  Other days, it’s just heartbreaking and I feel so overwhelmed by the inequities of power and privilege.  Today’s more on the latter side of the scale…and yet I still feel compelled to share these stories, to keep reposting and talking about them.  If we don’t, who will?

Read the article, listen to the original news story, and explore the previous installments of this investigation.

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