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.
Dear Governor Dennis Daugaard, South Dakota Department of Social Services and its contracted agencies:
The number of American Indian Children being taken from their families and communities is a despicable act, a violation of federal ICWA law and an abuse of power. Families are torn apart with no justification. Federal law requires that these children be placed in native foster care, yet they are being placed into private non-native foster homes and group homes instead. Some of these foster homes and private group homes are closely tied to the state government and are known to generate millions of dollars. More money is provided in correlation to the amount of “orphaned” children and half the children in these homes are American Indian’s, while native foster homes on South Dakota reservations sit empty.
Your services claim to protect children from hostile environments. The state has spent a lot of time and money refuting reports from NPR, families and tribal members, but the news of a lawsuit being settled with the Department of Social Service’s and N.E. Mental Health of Aberdeen and the arrest of Richard and Wendy Mette have highlighted a clear need for an independent investigation into the practices of DSS and the State of South Dakota. The public sees this as not only an abuse of power but amounts to nothing more than kidnapping, human trafficking and holding these children for ransom.
ICWA the federal law 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. The actions of the State of South Dakota, the state Department of Social Services and its contracted agencies are in direct violation of the ICWA federal law. It is clear the state has a lack of understanding of the American Indians traditional lifestyle and the destruction and devastation they have created by tearing these families apart for the sake of greed is undeniable.
In direct response to the hundreds of emails and phone calls from around the world, people are outraged with what the State of South Dakota is doing to these families, therefore we are calling on representatives in Washington, The National Indian Child Welfare Association, South Dakota ACLU, along with an independent panel comprised of one, if not two members from each of the nine (9) tribes in South Dakota to launch an immediate investigation into this matter. We are also asking that the adoptions of all American Indian Children over the past 10 years be fully investigated by this panel. The State of South Dakota, Department of Social Services and its contracted agencies are to immediately suspend the removal of all American Indian Children from the nine (9) South Dakota Reservations pending the outcome of this investigation. The State must also provide financial assist the Flandreau Santee Sioux, Standing Rock Sioux, Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux and the Oglala Sioux tribes with funds needed to set-up child protection services and foster care programs on the remaining five (5) reservations that do not currently provide these services for Indian families. Therefore empowering each tribe with the resources to care for their own children, preserving families and their cultural heritage.
This abuse of American Indian families and the abuse of powers exercised by the State of South Dakota, Department of Social Services and in contracted agencies need’s to stop right here right now! We do not intend to stop our campaign to correct this injustice until all nine (9) tribes in the state of South Dakota have full control of the placement of all Indian children and social services for their families.
Furthermore, I urge you to return all previously stolen children to their families allowing each of the respective tribes to decide if these children are in need of any services. The state and its contractors must issue a public apologize for the injustice to these families and their communities.