Each year in South Dakota the state Department of Social Services (DSS) takes over 700 American Indian children away from their families and tribes. 90% of these children are put into non-Native foster homes and institutions—in direct violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). In return, the state receives thousands of federal foster care dollars for every child they take—almost $100 million annually.
The recent Mette foster care scandal provides even more damning evidence that South Dakota is abusing its power as a protector of children. When four Lakota foster girls in the Mette family's care testified that they were being brutally raped and abused, state officials didn't try to protect the girls—instead they tried to protect themselves. Then they accused two child advocates, who were the foster girls' most vocal allies, of making the children lie. They also dropped nearly every one of the felony charges against the abusive father.
I am appalled at South Dakota's actions, and I join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Lakota People’s Law Project, and Last Real Indians in imploring you to investigate the state’s treatment of American Indian families. We feel that significant violations of federal law have occurred, not only against these Indian children and their advocates but against hundreds of other Native American families.
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