Tribe's child protection problems draw criticismGRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota's Spirit Lake tribe has left children on its reservation vulnerable to abuse because of shortcomings in its social welfare programs, a federal administrator said.
By: Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota's Spirit Lake tribe has left children on its reservation vulnerable to abuse because of shortcomings in its social welfare programs, a federal administrator said.
Tribal officials "have hung signs at the borders of the Spirit Lake Nation, 'Pedophiles welcome,' " Thomas Sullivan, a regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a June report to state and federal officials.
In one case, a suicidal girl was shuttled between homes where convicted sex offenders lived, Sullivan wrote.
The Grand Forks Herald reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/QRTYyN) that documents it obtained from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, including Sullivan's report, showed the federal agency constantly asked the tribe to remedy problems in its social services agency.
The documents say the BIA warned the tribe it would step in and run the social services itself if the issues were not addressed. The recent deaths of three children on the northeastern North Dakota reservation have drawn renewed attention to its problems.
The tribe's chairman, Roger Yankton, has said his administration is aware of the problems and has worked to resolve them since he became chairman in May 2011.
When Yankton met with federal officials last week to discuss the tribe's social service system, he asked his visitors: "When you came onto the reservation, did you see any 'Predators Welcome' signs?"
In a March review, the BIA said the tribe was not conducting required background checks on foster care providers, neglecting monthly home visits and moving foster children between homes without first investigating whether the new homes would be safe. The following month, the agency warned that continued neglect of the troubles "will result in immediate action," including the BIA possibly taking over social services.
Yankton responded in April that the tribe's governing council and its social services staff "will ensure that the safety (of children and) legal issues will be of the highest priority."
In late April, North Dakota Democratic Sen. John Hoeven met with the head of the Indian Health Service and other federal officials to tell them of his concerns about the Spirit Lake tribe's administration. And last month, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., asked the Interior Department to intervene, which prompted the BIA to send a special team to the reservation.
Information from: Grand Forks Herald, http://www.grandforksherald.com