- Associated Press - Friday, June 27, 2014

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Five more American Indian tribes in South Dakota are seeking federal money to help operate their own foster care programs.

The Rosebud Sioux last year became one of the first tribes in the nation to receive a $300,000 planning grant. The Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Yankton, Oglala and Crow Creek Sioux tribes this week also submitted applications for grants, the Argus Leader newspaper reported (https://argusne.ws/1qATlcl ). The Standing Rock reservation is half in South Dakota and half in North Dakota.

If approved, the tribes would have two years to build up their capacity to operate their own programs - everything from licensing foster homes to the mandatory collecting and submitting of case information to the federal government. Once that infrastructure is in place, the tribes then could apply to directly access federal money for foster care services rather than having the money routed through the state government.

Congress in 1978 passed the Indian Child Welfare Act after finding high numbers of Indian children being removed from their homes by public and private agencies and placed in non-Indian homes and institutions. But many tribal children still are going to non-tribal homes, leading to disputes and lawsuits.

“I think the Lakota Nation feels very strongly that the state is derelict in its duty,” said Matthew Renda, spokesman for the Lakota People’s Law Project, a nonprofit that provides Sioux tribes with expertise on the Indian Child Welfare Act. “I think what often happens is, because the unemployment rate is so high on the reservations, and because there is such dire poverty, there is a tendency by the state to equate poverty with neglect and thus remove children. It almost comes down to a cultural bias.”

Gov. Dennis Daugaard a year ago sent a letter to federal Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying he supports tribal efforts to run their own child welfare and foster care services.

“He is pleased that several tribes are moving forward,” spokesman Tony Venhuizen said Thursday.

Elizabeth Little Elk, executive director of Rosebud’s Sicangu Child and Family Services program, said her tribe has done a lot of work with its planning grant, including developing a model for foster care and a system to handle the mandatory federal reporting.

“The state is one of our partners, though our tribe will make the final decisions,” she said. “In the past, the tribes have never been at the table when decisions about our tribal children were made. That was detrimental to the children, detrimental to families, and ultimately detrimental to the tribe. We want to be able to say, ‘This is how we are going to take care of our tribal children.’ “


Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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