Native American foster children

Cathryn Frear, Staff Writer

Although we are considered globally to be a relatively progressive and accepting country, there are still issues in the United States which tarnish this reputation.  How we handled Katrina, gay civil rights issues, giving bailouts to multi-billion dollar companies while children starve in the street … you get the picture.

One other issue is our decreasing native population.  There are many historic events which have played a large role.  One example is what can only be described as a genocide brought on by white Europeans when settling the Americas and the subsequent takeover of land and resources.

In case the murder of the vast majority of an entire race isn’t enough, white Americans then decided the children should go to boarding school.  A new generation of Americans, known as social service workers, are now making it their civic duty to influence the current native population in a different way: foster care.

Yes, fostering children is an admirable act and it is important that children who need such a system have it at their disposal.  Surely the foster parents have the best intentions in mind.  However, some social service agents are looking at it a little differently. What they see is yet another opportunity to profit.

Incentives are being given out per child.  The federal government is giving out money based on each state’s need.  When this incentive was put into place, the number of children being taken away from their families skyrocketed.

Sure, there should be some kind of reward for doing your job right.  That reward is called a salary.  There should not be a bonus incentive program in place to get social service officers to do what they are supposed to do.

Another problem the officers seem to have is finding just cause for children being taken away.  According to a recent report by the National Public Radio, there are parents who are told their children are being taken for some reason or another and that reasoning never comes to fruition.

Officers have options other than placing children with foster families.  It is possible to instead place these children with other family members.   But with that option, there is no monetary incentive.

The Native American cultural norm is being misinterpreted as neglect.  Because of this type of misunderstanding, all children in the native population have been labeled “special needs” by the United States Federal Government.  This means states receive an increased amount of money per child placed in foster care, meaning the incentive has also increased.

In one example, NPR reported on a woman in South Dakota whose children were taken from her because she was accused of using drugs.  They told her she was going to be arrested.  She was never arrested, charges were never filed – those children were taken for no apparent reason whatsoever, then eventually returned with no explanation or apology.

Reform within the United States social service laws is necessary.  The federal and state governments that are letting this happen should be ashamed.  They have the ability and responsibility to do better.