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South Dakota’s stolen children

This petition had 1,410 supporters

Every year hundreds American Indian Children in South Dakota are removed from their families and placed in non-native foster care with no respect or understanding of Indian cultures or traditions. Most of these children have never experienced abuse and are in no danger in their home environment. Their parent’s only flaw is being poor, a condition created by the US government and society. These children are taken and thrown into non-native foster care and often suffer the loss of valuable traditions, some never seeing their families again and in some cases suffer horrible abuse while in the State foster care system. South Dakota Child Care Services is intended to protect children from abuse and hostile home situations. However, several cases involving Indian children placed in non-native foster homes have proven to be more harmful than if they would have stay in their homes with their families. For example the case reported by the Aberdeen American News Dec 10th, 2010 of the Mette’s of Aberdeen, South Dakota, who are still awaiting trial on a list of charges including several counts of rape of a minor child and incest. What makes this story more tragic is these children’s cries went unheard for years because one of the foster parents worked for the state of South Dakota.

ICWA the federal law that seeks to keep American Indian children with American Indian families. Congress passed ICWA in 1978 in response to the alarmingly high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies. The intent of Congress under ICWA was to "protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families" (25 U.S.C. § 1902). ICWA sets federal requirements that apply to state child custody proceedings involving an Indian child who is a member of or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe. This law recognizes that Indian children are at the core of the American Indian culture and strives to keep these children within their communities, which is vital to the preservation of their traditions and culture. The actions of the State of South Dakota, the State Department of Social Services and its contracted agencies are in direct violation of the federal ICWA law.

State officials claim to make no profit from foster children and that removal from their families is in the best interest of the children, but a recent investigation by National Public Radio (NPR), has uncovered the disturbing truth. Private group home providers generate millions of dollars for the care of foster children in large group homes, homes where half the children are American Indian. These same private group homes have been proven to have close ties with government officials and government funding. In the state of South Dakota Indian children make up about 15 percent of the child population, yet they make-up more than half of the children in state foster care. South Dakota is removing children at almost three times the rate of other states, according to data from the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

It seems obvious that South Dakota is profiting off the placement of American Indian Children in private foster care. If you look at the static’s almost all of these children are labeled “special needs children”. That’s because if a child is placed in the adoption program, the state receives approximately four thousand dollars ($4,000.00) per child in federal funding, but if a child has special needs, the state actually receives an estimated eight ($8,000.00) per child in additional federal funding for a total of twelve thousand dollars ($12,000.00) per child. Therefore a child labeled with “special needs” is worth more to the state. In many of these cases the state has no reason to take these children out of their homes or communities and is breaking apart families while defying federal law. We call for an immediate independent investigation into these practices by the State of South Dakota, the State Department of Social Services and its independent agencies . We demand the State, the Department of Social Services and its agencies will suspend all placements of American Indian children pending the outcome of this investigation. All matters pertaining to the best interest of the children should be turned over to the tribes to handle. Sign this petition to make the State of South Dakota, the Department of Social Services and its agencies stop taking advantage of American Indians by stealing indigenous children away from their families, communities and depriving them of their heritage. We will not stand for this injustice and the state needs to be held accountable for these despicable acts.

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