Monday, August 30, 2010

North Dakota Neglects Native Child Welfare

There is a reason why North Dakota is at the forefront of a new trend in the way foster care is administered and it has to do with the fact that the state is at the forefront of a national trend of putting minority children in foster care.

Native American numbers on rise in North Dakota foster care system

Statistics show that minorities are overrepresented in the foster care system in all states.

In North Dakota, Native Americans are the largest minority group represented in the foster system, and their numbers are on the rise. They accounted for 29 percent of the state’s foster children in 2008 and 37 percent in 2009, state child welfare data show.

North Dakota has possesses the nation's lowest unemployment rate yet the largest unemployed segment of the state's population is found on the rural reservations.

The poverty rates seen among Indians on reservations in the district are reflective of the high levels of unemployment. The official U.S. Census figure for unemployment among Indians living on district reservations was 23 percent, compared to 3.7 percent nationally, with as high as 37 percent unemployment for Indians on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Many consider these figures underestimates of true unemployment because the lack of jobs on reservations discourages many from looking for work, thus lowering labor force participation.

The updated approach to foster care should be one of equality in access of resources.  This means that it is time the Tribes step up to the plate and do more for Anishinaabeg.

Since the spread of American Indian casinos and other forms of gambling across the nation, the public perception of reservation life has shifted from one of desperate poverty to windfall riches. That perception is deeply flawed. While gambling has brought substantial wealth to the members of some tribes, they remain in the minority. The fedgazette's March 2003 analysis of 42 district reservations found that the richest five tribes accounted for 54 percent of casino revenue but less than 6 percent of population. (See map of Ninth District Indian Reservations.)

Beyond the most influential tribes investing and improving quality of life for the rest of the Tribes, the issues of child welfare fraud must immediately be addressed, for it happens in Native American child welfare programs, also.
The ACF has monitored the Tribal provisions of the child welfare protections required required by the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, but few Tribal records have been reviewed.
HHS OIG Child Welfare Services and Protections for Native American Children                                                              

Even though this report is dated 1994, there are other individual HHS OIG reviews supporting the original findings of the absence of Tribal child welfare program oversight.

North Dakota takes updated approach to foster care

State aims to keep families together

North Dakota is at the forefront of a new trend in the way foster care is administered: Don’t put children in foster care.

The idea is to help families help themselves so they can keep their children, rather than having a judge order them into the foster care system.

When children stay with their families, they typically do better in school, and the odds of them aging out of the foster care system and struggling with adult life – free of the assistance they received before – are diminished, said Gary Wolsky, president and CEO of The Village Family Service Center in Fargo.
“The problems get costlier to fix if left untended,” Wolsky said. “Prevention is always cheaper.”

The effort could save taxpayers a bundle because it’s more expensive to put a child through foster care than it is to help the whole family, Wolsky said.

The family preservation initiative has also grabbed the attention of some North Dakota lawmakers, who say they hope to see the idea take off in the state.

North Dakota lawmakers need to sit down with Tribal leaders and address the issues of fraud, waste and abuse, together, but even more importantly, establish universal systems of transparency and accountability.

Let's see if Wolsky will directly talk to Tribal families who have lost their children and publish his findings.  

More than family preservation, this is cultural preservation.
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