FORT TOTTEN, N.D. – U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today convened a field oversight hearing on “Safeguarding to the Seventh Generation: Protection and Justice for Indian Children and the Implementation of the Native American Children’s Safety Act of 2016.” The hearing took place in Fort Totten, North Dakota, at Cankdeska Cikana Community College.
“Today we have an opportunity to forge a path forward for the young people in this community,” Hoeven said. “Native youth are 2.5 times more likely to experience incidents involving child abuse or neglect than children of any other race or ethnicity. It is also deeply troubling that a child’s placement in foster care can lead to further involvement in the juvenile and criminal justice systems later in life. We need to break this vicious cycle for Native youth.”
Hoeven emphasized the need to examine the implementation of the Native American Children’s Safety Act of 2016, which he authored and introduced on January 16, 2015. It was signed into law on June 3, 2016.
The act requires background checks before foster care placements are ordered in tribal court proceedings. Under the law, all adults who reside in a foster home, who move into a foster home after a child’s placement or who work in a foster care institution are required to undergo a background check.
Michael Black, acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) at the U.S. Department of the Interior, updated the committee on the status of BIA’s required guidance on these procedures, commenting, “The BIA is currently in the process of identifying the best practices of social service agencies in Indian Country, with a view for how they can be adapted for use by tribal social service agencies… We expect to begin consultations [on the guidance] in the fall of 2017.”
“Tribal leaders and members over the years have consistently stressed their desire to help Native youth have every opportunity to succeed and remain in touch with their tribal communities, traditions and customs,” Hoeven concluded. “Safe and secure foster placements on the reservation are one step in the right direction.”
The committee also heard testimony today from Ms. Nikki Hatch, regional administrator for the Administration for Children and Families, Region 8, at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the Honorable Myra Pearson, chairwoman of the Spirit Lake Tribe; and Dr. Cynthia Lindquist, president of Cankdeska Cikana Community College.
Click here for complete testimony.