Is South Dakota Violating the Indian Child Welfare Act?

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By Mariel Beasley, Staff Editor

NPR’s three-part series on Native American children in foster care in South Dakota cites some concerning statistics. While only 15% of the youth population in South Dakota are Native Americans, they constitute 52% of the children in foster care. A statistical regression analysis and inter-state comparisons could shed more light on whether the disparity is due to high rates of alcoholism, poverty, and crime, or whether it's fueled by the same cultural bias that prompted the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in 1978. But even if the removal of each child from their home is justified, the ICWA says states must do everything possible to keep Native American families together, except in the rarest of circumstances. South Dakota appears to be out of compliance. Perhaps South Dakota should reexamine its child welfare policy and partner more closely with reservations to actively reduce and prevent poverty, not just remove children from it.


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