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Old 11-03-2004, 02:34 PM   #1
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Indian children still being taken by gov. agencies

ICWA hearings turn emotional
Indian Country Today November 01, 2004. All Rights Reserved
PINE RIDGE, S.D. - A series of listening sessions by the Governor's Commission on the Indian Child Welfare Act found the heat turned up on emotions, frustration and anger as witness after witness asked that their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews be returned home.

''You take our children out of our lands by usurping our laws. It is like a military action, it's a form of assimilation so that we will forget the treaties,'' said Cornell Conroy, a member of the Brave Heart Society. ''The Brave Heart Society is to protect the children. The U.S. government abrogated our right to protect our children.''

He told the commissioners that when a child is born into a Lakota family the child is taken outside in full view of a rising sun where prayers are said.

''God you gave me this child, I thank you. I will be responsible, not with a whip, but with reasoning. That is the prayer,'' he said. ''You have a total disregard for our way of life. Our children are looked at like dollar signs. You beat the Indian out of the child. We must be given the right to exist our way,'' Conroy said.

At a recent meeting of the governor's ICWA commission Conroy set the tone that would continue throughout the day in two locations.

The charge to the commission is to submit a report at the end of the year so the state legislature can decide what action to take.

The state's Department of Social Services has frequently come under strong criticism from the American Indian community over its treatment of American Indian children without regard, as the critics argue, to the federal ICWA laws.

''We will go to every reservation for a listening session to find out how we are not in compliance,'' said Janine Kern, South Dakota Circuit Court Judge, and co-chairwoman of the commission.

Testimony before other legislative committees has taken on much the same emotional tenor with anecdotal information from families present at the listening sessions. Complaints that ICWA was ignored are supported with testimony about lack of contact with the tribes or with extended family members when placement of a child is in question.

A bill introduced in the 2004 legislature that would strengthen the federal ICWA law in the state was sidetracked by the governor and instead the study commission was formed.

An independent research group is also in the process of searching through court and DSS case files selected at random to assess compliance with the federal law.

One of the most asked questions is why extended and nuclear family rights are terminated when parental rights are terminated. No answer to that question was available at the listening sessions. A reminder from those testifying is that in the Lakota culture the extended family is very important to the children's future. Questioned was why the grandparents or aunts and uncles of a child also lost rights to see the child after the parental rights were terminated.

Some parental rights were terminated even after the parent completed court ordered alcohol treatment and parenting classes, and in some cases in excess of what was required.

Monica Titus told the commission that when her son was taken away from her, her mother applied to take the child, but when Titus' rights were terminated, so were the grandmother's. Titus' mother is a licensed foster mother, has children under her care and was willing take her grandson, Titus said.

Oglala Tribal President John Steele told the commission that the tribe, with a new charter would take charge of child welfare on the reservation. The new program will not be connected to the tribal government.

''The state hires some of us and then they made us resign. There are a lot of non-Indians that work in the system. White social workers can't put themselves in our moccasins. They don't know how our families work. We can handle our own kids,'' he said.

When the DSS holds an interview with a family they may find two or three families living in one home; children may be sleeping on mattresses on the floor, boys and girls together. That's how it is in the Oglala culture, Steele and others said.

''We need 4,000 new homes to meet the backlog.'' He said that with a younger population, 50 percent of the population is under the age of 21, and there will be more need for homes.

The ICWA bill introduced in the state legislature in 2004 was supported by all nine tribal chairmen. The tribal leadership worked hard to have the bill implemented.

''It would be worth saving one child that is sent to the system, but we are talking about a lot of children,'' Steele said.

When American Indian youths are placed with non-Indian foster families, trauma sets in and eventually anger, and bad behavior, many people testified. Some spoke of abuse and neglect of the children at the hands of the foster parents.

James Ellenbecker, secretary for the Department of Social Services, attended the listening sessions. He said some of the children who were put in foster families were damaged before they arrived. He also admitted that more training for the social workers would be helpful.

''It is good the Oglala Sioux Tribe will have the charter. We want to work with the tribes. It's good if they have their own welfare system,'' said Ellenbecker

Nancy Fleming, a former childcare worker for the state said it was an all-white system and in a position of power the people may go too far. ''Everything should happen at the tribal level,'' she said.

One story about a 3-year-old boy, who was taken into custody after his father was arrested for a DUI, explained the trauma children experience. The father was released, but the child stayed in the hands of child welfare. The grandmother said she fought all weekend to have the child returned. She had to undergo an inspection of her home and a background check.

''When I saw my grandson he ran from the DSS worker into my arms, he was scared,'' she said.

Later the young boy was riding in the car to Rapid City with his two older sisters and told them to not move, because a policeman would take them away.
To Whom It May Concern The Displacement of Native Children to Non-Native families and Couples has gone on Long Enough. It started with the Virginia & other Eastern Tribes as far back as the first English Settlement and the Kidnapping of Pocahontas. The practice of Forced Removal of Native Children to Boarding Schools, Illegal Adoption, Legal Adoption and Foster Care left in the hands of White Officials and Non-Native "Caretaker" or "Guardian"; have left whole generations of American Indian People with no clue of how to get their Heritage or Traditional Spirituality back. The Local, State & Federal Agencies over-seeing these types of Child Welfare Organizations have been the problem more than the solution. The welfare of Native American Indian Children should be left in the hands of the Individual Tribal Governments. Not in the hands of white or other non-Native social workers who seem to Feel the need to place these Native children in situations of getting the child "Assimilated to The Way The Rest Of America Is".

The Lakota & Every Other Tribe across this continent had Raised their Children for Tens of Thousands of Years Before "The Great White Father" decided to teach our people about "Their Idea" of "True Spirituality" and Not to be a "Savage".

Hear Me!

Leave The Care Of Native American Indian Children in the Hands of Their Tribal Peoples.

Sincerely,

Thomas Greywolf Atkins Chickahominy/Mattaponi/U.S.Citizen

Send your Letter to the addresses below!
Government Officials: atghelp@state.sd.us sdinfo@state.sd.us sdsos@state.sd.us governor@state.sd.us dennis.daugard@state.sd.us infdhs@state.sd.us dssinfo@state.sd.us tom_daschle@daschle.senate.gov tim@johnson.senate.gov janine.kern@ujs.state.sd.us



Local & National Media: news@capjournal.com ifennell@aberdeennews.com mkueter@argusleader.com Ron.bender@rapidcityjournal.com kaor@usdedu molson@mpr.org mail@mpr.org kevn@kevn.com fox7@kevn.com nationalnews@herald.com investigations@herald.com op-ed@latimes.com national@latimes.com info@ap.org cshaw@nypost.com feedback@baltimoresun.com frank@northplattebulletin.com laura@northplattebulletin.com aditkoff@citypaper.com grayp@wjz.com berry@wmar.com bending@wjz.com newsroom@wmar.com studiob@foxnews.com newswatch@foxnews.com

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Old 11-03-2004, 02:56 PM   #2
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Yes the taking of our children is very sad. I don't know how the Pine ridge court system works but in my Tribe, our juvenile judge is also an ICWA rep. When it comes to termination of parental rights, our Tribal court system doesn't recognize it. This way it gives the parents time to get their lives together and still be able to get their children back as long as they meet certain requirements, stability drug and alcohol free home environment etc. In the interim we also have Permanent custody where a grandparent or guardian can have all legal rights to the children until the parents can get it together. Sad to say, some parents never get it together although they are given that chance and opportunity.
I know NDN foster homes are hard to come by. In order to be certified the home and family have to meet certain criteria and many times that is hard to do. We certainly need more NDN foster homes here as well, because when the children can't be placed within the rez and with families then they are placed with non-relatives or off the rez.
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Old 12-28-2004, 12:45 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kakeeya
Yes the taking of our children is very sad. I don't know how the Pine ridge court system works but in my Tribe, our juvenile judge is also an ICWA rep. When it comes to termination of parental rights, our Tribal court system doesn't recognize it. This way it gives the parents time to get their lives together and still be able to get their children back as long as they meet certain requirements, stability drug and alcohol free home environment etc. In the interim we also have Permanent custody where a grandparent or guardian can have all legal rights to the children until the parents can get it together. Sad to say, some parents never get it together although they are given that chance and opportunity.
I know NDN foster homes are hard to come by. In order to be certified the home and family have to meet certain criteria and many times that is hard to do. We certainly need more NDN foster homes here as well, because when the children can't be placed within the rez and with families then they are placed with non-relatives or off the rez.

Sad but true that there are many Ndn kids that are in non ndn foster homes and what I've witnessed even @ powwows is that they are mistreated, for instance they are little more than $$ signs for the "Caregivers" and are told what to eat, what to drink, how to sit/stand, it's a real shame, there was one Indian woman who didn't like those foster kids treatment @ the powwow and told them so, myself I gave them a couple dollars to get what they wanted, but you can bet they were told something when they went home! I wish to be a foster parent but there are so many hoops to go thru to get 'certified'!
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Old 12-28-2004, 07:59 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kakeeya
I know NDN foster homes are hard to come by. In order to be certified the home and family have to meet certain criteria and many times that is hard to do. We certainly need more NDN foster homes here as well, because when the children can't be placed within the rez and with families then they are placed with non-relatives or off the rez.
I cannot count how many times I have said this here. This is something I will be doing one day. Currently I am taking an elderly downes syndrome man into care with me when I leave this job, but he's like family so I need to take him with me. But seeing as his age is far up there, I discussed with my husband about bringing native children to foster when he's gone. There's just not enough of us and it frustrates me to hear folks blaming the government, when it's us that are'nt willing to be the foster parents right? Like trying to squeeze blood from a turnip.

I would like to add though, be careful in judging those non natives who are fostering. Most of them know little to nothing of our culture and many are'nt just after the money (believe me it's not like assisted living and foster pay enough to be rich) but really did get into this to try to make a difference....but some just don't know what they are getting into and they are right, some of these kids are messed up when they get them. I mean think about it, why are they in foster care? Not just cause daddy had his 3rd DUI, but most because they came from abusive homes. Homes where everyone is beaten, or worse. Sexual abuse is often the case..... I don't have to say that messes with a kids' mind now do I? And then to be taken out of a very bad situation to a situation where you are safe but not understood.... maybe instead of coming down hard on those folks, offer them some words of encouragement and suggestions on how better to understand native cultures for the children they foster.
Now before someone jumps on me and tells me one more heart wrenching story of a very bad foster home experience... I am simply saying, don't judge on first site ok? I know there are horrible people out there that do abuse the system and the children out there (but usually you don't see it in public nor would you often see them take the kids to powwows and such, they like to hide that stuff and can be good at it). Just don't assume they are all that way ok?
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Old 12-29-2004, 12:12 AM   #5
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what we all need to do is get off our azzes and become foster parents. my sisters did it awhile back and it was hard - one still does. these little girls both had been sexually abused and both were over sexualized. one was the same age (2) as my eldest daughter and she kept tryin to play with her in a sexual manner - sorry to be crude but was dry humpin my daughter. i'm planning on becoming a foster parent when my children are older - why add anymore to my stress right now - i have a 10, 8 and a 2 year old along with an 8 month old. these children need full time parenting and i cant do that for them right now...i'll experiment on my own children jks!!

my sisters remember when they were young when our cousins were apprehended right in front of them. there was three of them - and all were adopted out to white families and weren't seen again. their parents at the time both worked and had no full time childcare for them - they were in a sense latch key kids, fully acceptable now. until five years ago when one of my cousins contacted my mother - here she was living in st.albert alberta and her brothers both were stateside (one in north carolina (who is now a fighter pilot in the army) and the other wisconsin - i think).

all these children deserve better..
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Old 12-29-2004, 10:24 AM   #6
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O.K., I just have to tell you all a horrific story that I have just recently begun talking about because it left me & my children so traumatized regarding foster care & working with State Agencies. I'll probably be a little lengthy, but please, I want everyone to know what's out there when considering becoming a certified home. We took in 2 young girls a few years back...the were in a County 'Indian' foster home which consisted of a 90 year old white man and his 80 year old white wife. They were considered an 'Indian Foster Home' becuz the man's first wife had been an 'Indian', so by County regulations, I guess he was 'Indian by Injection'. Needless to say, these children had come from a very bad situation and had been in foster care awhile. They came to us and after a short honeymoon period, it was downright scary...I had to hide my kitchen knives, I was finding food wrappers hidden under the beds, and mostly, I found myself teaching personal hygiene including learning how to use a toothbrush to a 14 and 8 year old. The County did not tell us anything of their background. Unfortunately, I ended up having to let the 14 year old go back becuz it was just too stressful on our family. We then concentrated on the 8 year old and began getting help for her on our own and with the help of our school district. The County had quite conveniently 'forgot' to copy the backside of a report regarding this child that showed that she had been born a fetal drug baby and had been severly abused as an infant. I cried when I found this out. After almost a year of hard, hard work and alot of love and patience, a County CPS worker comes into my work (and I worked within our own tribal courts) and tells me that I punched my 8 year old in the face in McDonald's. (Nevermind the fact that there were dozens of people there that did not see this)...this CPS worker had also gone into the school district and privately interviewed my own 12 & 10 year olds and just plain harassed them when they told her that no such happened. This worker would not speak to my 15 year old but continued to make unsubstantiated crazy allegations. Needless to say, she came into my home, packed up all of my foster child's things including clothing, toys, etc... that my family & I had purchased (she had only come with rummage sale clothing that I had immediately discarded). Well, they took her right from school, didn't even give me a chance to say goodbye...nothing. I went through every emotion in the book from anger to sadness but pulled through, with a drive of personal vengence because of what they had put my own children through. With the help and total support of the school district and many friends, co-workers (including our tribal child & family program), we held this big azzed mtg with the County Commissioner & Child Welfare Agency officials (they walked out looking alittle grim-the CPS worker was even transferred to another district)....in short, within a few weeks, I was given a written apology, an official letter from the County that none of the allegations the CPS worker had accused me were true and a framed Certificate of an Excellent Foster Home. What a frickin joke!!! - it made me sick. They had waltzed right in, disrupted my family, made sick, untrue allegations and did not stop to look at the love, emotional ties and down right hard work we had devoted ourselves to with this child. It was horrific, but I know that there are probably worse stories than mine, but I just really wanted to relate this story to let you know what can happen when becoming a foster home. I later found out that the 14 yr. old had had a baby and was in jail with her child going into foster care and the 8 year old was adopted by non-Indians.
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Old 12-29-2004, 11:41 AM   #7
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laxmom...first i commend you on your effort to help and care for ndn children...its a shame that this happened to you, your family, and to the child...my mother was a product of the system...needless to say...her childhood wuz not a pleasant one and only went from bad to worse when put into the hands of her adopted parents...she wuz called every name in the book by her classmates and essentially felt that she wuz bad for being ndn...her home life wuz that of abuse and eventually lead her to numb her pain thru drugs, alcohol and constantly running away...the only good these people did wuz allow her to return home for the summers where she wuz able to meet a very great man who i believe saved her life (even though she didn't see it at the time)...and i am eternally grateful to my father who took her away...even tho i am not on the rez, my goal is to someday foster ndn children...stressful times and all...cuz i think our children are worth it...
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Old 12-29-2004, 09:04 PM   #8
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my hubby does'nt believe me .. but I'm ready for it. Lax, someday I'll bet you get to see the positive impact you had on that 8 year old sometime in life... I know foster children never forget the ones that were good to them.
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