Taken From Families, Indigenous Children Face Extreme Rates of State Violence in US
excerpt: Taken from their families
Foster Care, “Children’s Homes” and Profiting Off Native Loss
In South Dakota, Indigenous children make up 15 percent of the child population, but comprise more than half the children in foster care. Nearly 90 percent of the kids in family foster care are placed in non-Native homes or group care.
Daniel Sheehan works with tribal leaders in the state to end the epidemic of illegal seizures of Native children by the state of South Dakota. Sheehan said the biggest concern of the nine tribes he works with is their children being taken away and the parents being prosecuted for “neglect.” This practice represents a pervasive bias against Native families – especially those living on reservations – the Lakota People’s Law Office asserts in a 2013 report to Congress. The South Dakota Department of Social Services equates economic poverty with neglect and fails to understand the tribes’ kinship system of extended family – something the ICWA was actually designed to protect. “Under this bias,” the report goes on to say, “South Dakota’s rate of identifying ‘neglect’ is 18% higher than the national average.”
Chrissi Nimmo said the issues that disproportionately affect tribes and lead to the removal of children should be considered “correctable conditions,” instead of accepted as the status quo. Currently, one typical state response to poverty seems to be to immediately and permanently remove children from their families. “There is, without a doubt, lasting trauma to children who are permanently removed from their birth families,” she said.
“[Native] women most often are the ones thrown under the bus,” Sheehan said. “Hence the disproportionate rate of incarceration.” Native Americans also report widespread discrimination by the police. According to a 2009 report by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Native women are criminally prosecuted at six times the rate of white women.
The women often get charged with assault for resisting arrest, Sheehan said. “Lakota women don’t accept being manhandled by white police, and these cops are being trained like military occupying forces, with military equipment like BearCat armored vehicles patrolling the reservations.”
When Native parents are arrested and their children are taken away, the parents have no means of contact with their children, and no information is communicated to them, Sheehan said. This makes it harder for families to reclaim their children, and easier for the state to perpetuate the cycle of forced removal of Indigenous children.
Taking children away from their Native families is also profitable: According to a February 2015 report from IBISWorld, adoption and child welfare services in the United States rake in $14 billion a year. And there are other indications of moneyed influence in child removal.