Native American Foster Care Under Investigation

Brooke Swier Schloss
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Family Law and Estate Planning attorney helping families across South Dakota plan and protect their loved ones
Posted on Dec 29, 2012

Across the United States, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 establishes precise rules that must be followed when it comes to removing Native American children from their communities. Except in unusual emergency situations, Native American children are supposed to be placed in foster care homes with other Native American kids, or else to have their custody assigned to relatives.

A 2011 report by National Public Radio (NPR) stated that South Dakota has violated these rules by taking an excessive number of Native American children out of their communities and placing them in non-Native American households or foster homes. Leaders of tribes within South Dakota demanded an investigation and a summit meeting with federal officials to discuss the issue.

Directors of the state’s Indian Welfare Council expected a meeting last summer, but federal officials did not follow through on their promise of a summit. Now these leaders have developed a report to Congress detailing the violations of federal law. This full report will be released in the next few weeks, but some details have been disclosed to reporters.

According to reports, Native American children make up approximately 13.8 percent of the child population in South Dakota. Among foster care youth, they make up approximately 56.26 percent. Of the 440 children in family run homes across South Dakota, only 59 of those children were placed in Native American family–run homes, while there were 39 Native American foster homes empty and available to accept new children. These statistics were compiled by the non-profit organization, the Lakota People’s Law Project.

The laws of placing a Native American child into foster care and up for adoption in South Dakota are complex under the ICWA. Because of the complexities involved, some mothers choose to seek legal counsel to ensure that their child is being given to a home within their culture and community.

If you are a Native American mother ready to give your child up for adoption, contact Swier Law Firm, Prof. LLC, for help getting your child placed in the right home in accordance with the ICWA. We have experience with these specific types of adoption and can help ensure that your child does not become a part of the controversy stated by NPR.