The Indian children should all fall under the Indian Child Welfare Act however it is our observation that many of the children are being disqualified in the Administrative proceedings, because the Judges are made to believe that these children are not enrolled or eligible for enrollment in a federally recognized Tribe by the case workers. Nothing could be further from the truth! I firmly believe these erroneous statements are made in the court to diminish the actual number of Tribal children that they are in fact removing from their families and Tribes of origin.
Our research also shows that poverty is being confused with neglect. Then family case plans are issued from the State Department of Social Services that are impossible for the parents to meet the requirements of. For instance, parents will be told they must have a running car, a job, a home of their own, pay child support, attend parenting classes, go for evaluations and treatment, etc. This is on a Reservation where there are 4,000 heads of households that do not have their own homes. The unemployment rate is about 83-85%. Once the children have been removed then they are held hostage and the parents made to jump through all these arbitrary hoops. If they fail the court is told they are not in compliance with their family case plan and parental rights are terminated. The children are then, adopted to non- Indian families. The state then receives federal financial rewards.
What I find most alarming about this situation is that there are state statutes for criminal abuse of children. Yet none of these parents who have lost their children have EVER been charged under the criminal code for child abuse. Therefore, they have no jury, no evidence is presented on their behalf, and they suffer criminal conviction consequences….the loss of their children. The children don’t just lose their parents they lose their whole family, their grandparents, siblings, aunties, uncles and cousins! This is an outrage! How can this happen?! If, as the social workers and the Judge determine that the abuse or neglect is substantiated, why are there no criminal charges that would at the very least afford the parents the right to a jury trial in a court of record?! This is the most absurd thing I have ever seen! A gross miscarriage of justice, culturally unacceptable and judicially irresponsible!
The Indian Child Welfare Act is not taking precedence over the more recently implemented Adoption and Safe families Act of 1997. I can only assume, because there is no financial incentive being offered to reunite families and by applying ICWA when appropriate. The State of South Dakota has in addition to the ASFA funding incentives, a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Interior for foster care reimbursement of native children. They are also reimbursed for foster care by forcing the parents to pay child support, taking Social Security and death benefits that the children may be entitled to, and in some Tribes, their land leases, mineral rights and water right monies. As you can see this is a multi-faceted cash flow opportunity and lucrative industry for the State. Our children, simply put, are being harvested as a cash crop! This must not be allowed to continue. The consequences are far too great.
The Adoption and Safe Families Act, (ASFA), was passed in 1997 by the US Congress. The purpose of this Bill was to protect children from lingering in foster care. In some cases children were literally being lost in foster care in some of America’s larger cities. The idea was to find permanent placement for children within a designated time frame. Attached to this movement of children would be financial incentives and bonuses to states for compliance with mandates. Thus, the Child Abuse Industry in America was now, subsidized by the Federal Government.
One would hope that ASFA would make our children safer, at lower risk for neglect, abuse, and lower numbers of children in foster care. This has not been the case! In my opinion the goals of ASFA have grossly failed! ASFA demands that the child welfare agency be responsible for ensuring the safety of children in out-of-home care. Yet, nationwide hundreds of children have died while in the care of “professional parents”.
The actual outcome of ASFA has been a higher number of children in foster care. There has been a massive increase in parental terminations, and adoptions of America’s children. The issue that needs to be pointed out here, is that not only are the parent’s rights to have a relationship with their children terminated, all family members are terminated from having a relationship with these children.
Who is really benefiting from ASFA? The professional parents (foster/adoptive parents), the contracted mental health care providers, the residential and treatment centers, the growing demand for more social workers being hired to handle the caseloads, etc. According to statistics from the National Child Protection Reform each child that is in the system generates an estimated residual economic development figure of $250,000.00 or more per year! This tells me that our children are being harvested as a subsidized cash crop. When the market numbers increase then dividends in the form of bonuses are paid to the states.
The children who are being protected from their parents, (who are rarely if ever charged under any criminal abuse or neglect statue) are going to age out of the system without an adequate education, little or no social skills, little or no work experience, disenfranchised from their families and communities, on psychotropic drugs. What future does that hold for them? What are the residual costs to the taxpayers going to be? Are we just grooming our youth for their eventual commitment to our prison systems?
All of the proceedings that take place (with the exception of the rare criminal abuse charges,) are done by Administrative proceedings under a veil of secrecy. There is no jury, no evidence, only hearsay of the Case Worker, no witnesses or open trail, because of “the child’s confidentiality”. I don’t know of one case where the child(ren) were present in court to testify. The parents are adjudicated and placed on the Nation Registry of Child Abusers. They lose their family. They are told by everyone who hears their story, “They can’t do that!” But the fact remains it was done, is being done and will continue to be done until American families stand together to demand that their Constitutional right to parent their children is restored, and that the child protection system be reformed. However, they don’t do that for fear they will some how suffer further consequences from the State. Or they believe the biggest lie…parents in America have all gone mad and only professional parents and social workers care about and are capable of loving these “poor” children!
I am not suggesting, nor do I believe that there are not children who are being abused. What I am saying is that thousands of children are being removed arbitrarily and without substantiated cause from their homes. Some of these families only needed services that could’ve been provided with the children still in the home. I would like to note that according to national statistics children in foster care are at much higher risk of sexual and physical abuse then in the home of their parents. Federal legislation provides a foundation for States by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. §5106g), as amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum:
After huge class action lawsuits were brought against 32 states, 30 of them reformed their child protection policies with great success in focusing on family preservation and in-home family services that reduced the cost to taxpayers and made children safer.
I know that most of you are thinking to yourself, “These parents have abused their children and are in denial, blaming the system.” According to the statistics filed with the Child Welfare League of America (www. cwla.org) prior to ASFA in 1998 there were 55 adoptions in South Dakota and no children waiting to be adopted, 5 years later there were 144 adoptions and a staggering 464 children waiting to be adopted. The state last year received an adoption bonus of $56,000.00 for adoptions over their baseline number. Residential foster care in 2000 cost taxpayers in $4,498,452.00. Two years later in 2002 that amount had increased to $17,212,505.00! Folks, this is about the money, not about protecting children! From 1996 to 2004 the federal budget increased in SD by 128.6% and the state budget by 53.0%! Did all the parents in SD just start going nuts on their children over that six-year period? I think not! I believe money and economic development in the newly subsidized child abuse industry increased these numbers.
South Dakota has a 9% total Native American population, according to the Governor’s Commission on the Indian Child Welfare Act. Yet more than 65% of the children removed from the home are Native American. I believe this number, is also motivated by funding and opportunity. South Dakota has a statue that allows the Secretary of Social Services to collect funding from the Department of Interior for the cost of their care. Thus, Indian children are worth double the money to the state. Even though this has been denied by DSS at Appropriations and Government Operation and Audit Committee meetings, I find it hard to believe that they would go to the trouble of having legislation drafted for such an action and not utilize it. (Chapter 28 SDCL)
In a recent Rapid City Journal article it stated that 81% of the children were taken for reasons of neglect. What the Social Workers view as neglect is arbitrary. Virtually anything can be used against parents to justify the interrogation of your children at schools by police officers, social workers and counselors to intimidate children, ask leading and open ended questions that are used to ultimately destroy the family. These children then are removed from the school without the knowledge of the parents and placed in foster care. Poverty and its effects are often confused with neglect. Instead of the state, social and community organizations helping these parents overcome the financial struggles they suffer their children they are ripped from their lives.
The Government does not exist for any other reason than to protect the interests of the individual. The Government has no rights, only powers and duties. There is no provision for this non-governmental action in our Constitution. In fact the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled at least fifteen times on the right of parents to raise own their children.
The state of South Dakota has statues that forbid the State, it’s officers or agent to violate the Constitution or US Supreme Court rulings. See SDCL 1-1A-1 and 1-1A-2. In Lehr vs. Robertson, 463 US 248,) The linkage between parental duty and parental right was stressed again in Prince v. Massachusetts ... The Court declared it a cardinal principle “that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder.” In these cases, the Court has found that the relationship of love and duty in a recognized family unit is an interest in liberty entitled to Constitutional protection ... “State intervention to terminate such a relationship ... must be accomplished by procedures meeting the requisites of the Due Process Clause” Santosky v. Kramer .
America’s children are not safer. Families are not being honored as the most primary social structure of our culture. The very foundation of a child’s normal development is being disassembled by states. The States create the problem, than they are the solution. The States create orphans, than they are the adoption agency.
* THIS ARTICLE WILL BE FEATURED IN THE JAN/FEB 2007 ISSUE OF WELL NATIONS MAGAZINE
25 January 2005
It is a sad time in American history. A time when the very core of the most basic of social human structures and foundations are being threatened. The families of this country are under attack by their own government funded kidnapping programs. The specialized units that enforce this atrocity are more commonly known as Child Protection Services. A vigilantly group of generally undereducated, under qualified, self proclaimed saviors of children.
Force, coercion and fraud, are among the tactics used to arbitrarily and capriciously deny liberty to families. These maneuvers are self motivated by the “system” fondly referred to as being ”in the best interest of the child”, (although there is no legal definition of this term that I can find anywhere) rather a vague and broad umbrella used to commit genocide against families and social violence against parents. One would assume, that the Social Workers would genuinely be employed as a public servant (that are funded with your tax dollars) to provide help and services to families that resulted in positive outcomes. However, with even more of your tax dollars being made available for the very profitable Child Abuse Industry and no oversight for these specialized units we see a very unfavorable outcome pattern emerging for families, that financially propels the extermination of family units. Rather than providing services and resources to families, these units instead are continuing to fund bad faith programs for financial gain. The federal funding is not providing help for the children nor the families. The funding is used to maintain the contractual and criminal collusion of other specialized units such as, Public Defenders, Mental Health Professionals, Social Workers, Judges, foster home programs, residential group homes and treatment centers, which incidentally, are being referred to in state legislation as “retraining centers”.
The dollar figures are gross, but the language used by all of these specialized units are exactly the same language that Hitler used to exterminate the lives of millions. This type of Nazi social restructuring paints a very bleak portrait for our future as Americans and more particularly, as parents. Our children, that are being removed from their homes by the thousands, parents who no longer are protected by the Constitutional right of Due Process of Law, who’s fate are at the sole discretion of the specialized units, will without a doubt, create a future of overcrowded prison systems, adults that will suffer emotional ramifications of their childhoods in state captivity and increased substance abuse to medicate their suffering. These specialized units have mobilized an army of mandated snitches, that are strategically placed in all industries that serve the health, education and welfare of children. They now use early childhood education and government funded daycare centers to engage in their “re-corrective thinking” philosophy, teaching our children that any kind of discipline or parental authority is abuse and that it should be reported to a specialized unit personality. They are creating an environment of voluntary mutual agreement with children to become a vital artery of the collusion. Then they hold the “process” in secret and withhold public information about these petty (and generally, erroneous) allegations. Children are then asked leading questions by the specialized unit employees. Their answers, of course incriminate their parents and begin the destruction of the family (and extended family) that they love and cherish. Then the specialized units are mobilized to invade your home, demand that you prove your emotional, mental and financial well being, (by the unit’s standards) terrorize your children by removing them from their home and placing them in retraining facilities. After these tasks have been successful they start implementing task number two, which is the divide and conquer mobilization. During this phase your children are emotionally abused by unit workers. They are told things like, “You’re never going to see your parents again, because you’re going to be adopted by a nice family”. “Your parents are going to lose their parental rights, because they aren’t cooperating with the unit worker”. “You can’t go home because your Mom is an alcoholic”. Then unit workers make it as difficult as possible for you to spend any quality time with your children, if you have sucked up enough, to even get the privilege of visiting your child. They “supervise“, film and tape record the visits after instructing parents and children on the “rules” about what is appropriate to say and more specifically what not to say (or ask!). Then use your visit with your children against you in court. Unit workers use hearsay, lies, and misconstrued facts in reports to the court that make parents appear to be somehow failing in their love and desire for their children to be returned to the home.
These same reports are used to make unit workers appear that they are in compliance with the very laws that they are breaking to maintain their bad faith system of criminal collusion! Ultimately, the parents are adjudicated in a quasi-civil proceeding with inadequate representation from the Public Defenders Office. They are placed on a Child Abuse Registry, as if they had in fact been tried and found guilty of criminal abuse. By this time the parents intimately know the betrayal of the judicial process and the government that has grossly ignored and violated their rights. They are generally in financial ruin and mentally exhausted from trying to make sense of this infringement of their basic liberties guaranteed to them by the Constitution. Then out of frustration they try to redress grievance and contact their Representatives to get some answers or intervention. Shortly after this, the specialized units take all necessary action to terminate parental rights and place your child for sale in the ADOPTUSKIDS web catalog www.adoptuskids.com . Unit workers are then praised and given awards and bonuses for the number of families they have maliciously destroyed for cash incentives!
Please help stop the harvest of our children as a cash crop! Have the courage to think, speak and act on behalf of our children and the families that love them. Do not allow the specialized units authority or claim over the fate of our families. Do not sacrifice your children for their financial greed and economic collusion. This is a BAD FAITH SYSTEM! I am not naive enough to believe that there aren’t really children who are at risk or are being abused. What I claim is that the numbers are grossly inflated because the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) provides federal funds to specialized units that creates a whole industry of economic development in the name of the best interest of the child. Folks, the best interest of children is to be at home with their family, in their own culture and communities with familiar surrounding, not in institutional settings on psychotropic drugs! Many of the parents who are being treated like criminals went to the “system” in search or resources, referrals or help. The specialized units use that as an invitation to destroy your family. You will not be provided with help or resources for your family by these units. There are no financial incentives available if they provide these things. The financial system is set up to reward the destruction of biological families and create new adoptive families.
Please visit our website www.freewebs.com/voiceofwomen/ for more information about the new Reich and it’s specialized units, that federal funding has bred in your state! You say, this is “impossible“. You say, “this can’t happen in America“. You say, ”They can’t do that!” You say, “These parents must’ve done something!” I tell you The Child Abuse Industry is a very well organized Union that has the benefit of unlimited funding through various federal and state resources and programs. South Dakota is removing children at a rate three times higher than the state of New York, per capita! The Child Protection budget has increased by over 11 million dollars over three years in South Dakota! The Department of Social Services has the fastest growing budget of any department in the State! Do you know where your children are? Gwen Caldwell Voice of Women Founder
By Vicky Wicks, Journal Staff Writer
RAPID CITY — A legislative committee hearing became contentious Monday in Rapid City when the discussion turned to race relations between the Department of Social Services, or DSS, and its clientele. Witnesses testified that their discontent with the agency revolves around policies that fail to consider American Indian culture. The hearings to examine policies and procedures of the DSS Division of Child Protection, scheduled to continue this morning, are being held before the South Dakota Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee of the South Dakota Legislature.
"Oftentimes, poverty is being confused with neglect," said Gwen Caldwell, a Cherokee woman. She said that parents found to be neglectful are ordered by the court to take measures to improve their home situation but are hindered by poverty. For instance, parents might be ordered to find a job, get counseling or submit to urinalysis, but the parents don't have job training or transportation to get to appointments. "It's impossible to comply with the family case plan," Caldwell said.
The committee members seemed to be acquainted with the Cherokee woman as well as subsequent witnesses, an American Indian woman from Martin, Hazel Bonner of Rapid City and the attorney accompanying them, Daniel Sheehan of San Rafael, Calif. In a presentation that was often heated, the women attempted to outline complaints of Indian people against DSS for removal of children from homes and placement in foster care or residential facilities. Committee members frequently interrupted witnesses to demand specifics rather than generalities. But when a witness tried to offer information about a specific case, committee members would stop the discussion unless there was a signed release of confidentiality from concerned parties allowing DSS workers to discuss the case.
Sheehan attempted several times to summarize the women's arguments or ask questions of DSS workers, but committee chairman Rep. Ted Klaudt, R-Walker, pounded the gavel on the table if Sheehan became argumentative. More than once, committee members threatened to have Sheehan removed. Caldwell said that Indian children are targeted for removal from homes because of a family's lifestyle. At times, poverty necessitates that four or five families occupy a two- or three-bedroom home, but that fact that can be "horrifying" to non-Indians, she said. Sen. John Koskan, R-Wood, said that the witness was outlining a situation without a resolution: setting lower standards for Indian families would be racist, but setting the same standards for Indians is unfair.
Caldwell said that the tribes should be handling cases involving Indian children and that Indian families should provide foster care as required under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. Sen. Jerry Apa, R-Lead, asked Caldwell if she was aware that DSS has unsuccessfully tried to recruit Indian foster families. She replied that the criteria for licensing were too strict. Putting Indian children into non-Indian foster homes "dissects them from their language" and from their extended families as well as their immediate families, Caldwell said. The American Indian culture is not a religion, Caldwell said, but "it's who we are, how we pray." "If you don't have those things, it is genocide," she said.
Sheehan said that federal legislation to facilitate permanent adoption of children in foster care has made Indian children vulnerable to being taken out of the home for a variety of reasons. Sheehan referred to a $14.5 million fund through U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families. South Dakota is getting $56,000 for increasing the number of children adopted from state- supervised foster care, according to a September Associated Press story. DSS has been "inspired by the ability to obtain federal funds," he said, and "following a bureaucratic imperative" is sending "a burgeoning number" of Indian children to be "warehoused" in residential facilities. Sheehan compared the situation to the boarding schools where Indian children were sent in earlier years to assimilate them into white culture.
Sen. Bill Napoli, R-Rapid City, who is not on the committee, sat through the hearings as an observer and came forward to testify. He said that he saw a lot of animosity and told the committee members, "I hope your goal here is not to prove somebody is lying and somebody isn't." He said witnesses came forward to ask for help — "People are pouring their hearts out" — and that the committee should help them to find balance, Napoli said. Napoli said that in the late 1990s, Gov. Bill Janklow pushed for more aggressive protection of children but that perhaps the state has become too aggressive.
A suggestion that an ombudsman or liaison should be in place to assist parents is a good idea, Napoli said. At today's hearings, held at Quality Inn, 1902 North La Crosse St., the committee will hear more public testimony from 8:15 a.m. until noon. Contact Vicky Wicks at 394-8318 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Forum Rapid City Journal 10-8-05: Child welfare system abuses Indian children By Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, a non-profit organization dedicated to trying to make the child protection system better serve America's most vulnerable children.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A story in the Rapid City Journal this week describes a legislative hearing at which Native Americans tried to make the case that their children were being taken from them needlessly and thrown into foster care, only to be whipsawed by hostile legislators who first demanded specifics, then cut witnesses off when they tried to provide them ("DSS hearing turns into racial debate," Oct. 4).
Such treatment of human beings in anguish over the plight of their children is inexcusable under any circumstances. But what makes it even worse is this: The Indians are right. A child is more likely to be torn from his or her parents in South Dakota than all but three other states. The rate of removal is two and a half times the national average and more than quadruple the rate in states that have become national models for keeping children safe. The latest all-purpose excuse for tearing apart families - methamphetamine - doesn't wash. South Dakota has been tearing apart families at this obscene rate since at least 1985 - long before it could be blamed on meth. And other states and localities with serious meth problems take away far fewer children than South Dakota.
Contrary to the common stereotype, most parents who lose their children to foster care are neither brutally abusive nor hopelessly addicted. Far more common are cases in which a family's poverty has been confused with child "neglect" - exactly as Gwen Caldwell, a Cherokee, said at the hearing. But lawmakers at the hearing seem to have no problem with destroying a family just because it's poor.
When Caldwell complained that Indian children are taken because they sometimes live in badly-overcrowded housing, one legislator suggested there is no solution, because it would be wrong to lower "standards" for Indian families. But no child of any race should ever be torn from everyone loving and familiar because the family can't afford better housing. The solution is to provide housing assistance. Not only is that more humane than tearing apart a family, it also costs less than foster care.
Some would undoubtedly point to South Dakota's incredibly high rate of removal and say it's keeping children safe. Sure, they'll say, parents may suffer when their children are removed, but we have to err on the side of the child. In fact, there probably is no phrase in the English language that has done more harm to children than "err on the side of the child."
When a child is needlessly thrown into foster care, the emotional trauma can cripple him for life. One recent study of foster care "alumni" found they had twice the rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder of Gulf War veterans and only 20 percent could be said to be "doing well." How can throwing children into a system which churns out walking wounded four times out of five be "erring on the side of the child?" All that harm occurs even when the foster home is a good one. The majority are. But the rate of abuse in foster care is far higher than generally realized and far higher than in the general population.
That same alumni study found that one-third of foster children said they'd been abused by a foster parent or another adult in a foster home. (The study didn't even ask about one of the most common forms of abuse in foster care: foster children abusing each other.) Switching to orphanages won't help - the record of institutions is even worse. If a child is taken from a safe home only to be beaten, raped or killed in foster care, how is that "erring on the side of the child"?
But even that isn't the worst of it. Everyone knows how badly caseworkers are overwhelmed. They leave some children in dangerous homes, even as more children are taken from homes that are safe, or could be made safe with the right kinds of services. The more that workers are overwhelmed with children who don't need to be in foster care, the less time they have to find children in real danger. So more such children are overlooked. How is that "erring on the side of the child"?
That's why the only child welfare systems that are truly making children safer are places like Illinois and Alabama, which are doing more, not less, to keep families together. In both states, independent court-appointed monitors have found significant improvements in child safety. Yet Alabama takes children at about one-fourth the rate of South Dakota, and Illinois takes them at about one-sixth the South Dakota rate.
If South Dakota lawmakers really want to protect children, they should find out why other states are succeeding while they fail. They could start by letting the victims of these failed policies speak, uninterrupted.