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Child Welfare in “Indian Country”

Child Welfare in “Indian Country”

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Child Welfare in “Indian Country”

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  1. Child Welfare in “Indian Country” 1 (c) ICFRC 2011

  2. Presented byKathy Deserly, DirectorIndian Child and Family Resource CenterHelena, MontanaApril 13, 2011 2 (c) ICFRC 2011

  3. So what is “Indian Country?” (c) ICFRC 2011

  4. The Land • There are a number of types of "Indian country" recognized by US law: • To be recognized as "Indian country", usually, the land must either be within an Indian reservation or it must be federal trust land (land technically owned by the federal government but held in trust for a tribe or tribal member). • For most purposes, the types of Indian country are as follows: • reservations • informal reservations • dependent Indian communities • allotments and • special designations (c) ICFRC 2011

  5. (c) ICFRC 2011

  6. The People • 4.1 million people reported as American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) on the last U.S. Census • There are 565 federally-recognized Tribes • There are 34 urban Indian Health Programs contracted with the Indian Health Service • There are urban Indian Centers in at least 26 states (c) ICFRC 2011

  7. The People, continued… • The Native American population is not evenly spread across the nation. The majority of Native Americans live in the western regions of the United States, specifically 43%. • The remainder of the Native population lives in the south, 31%, the midwest, 17%, and the northeast, 9%. This statistics demonstrates how the Native American population is concentrated into few general areas. Over half of Native Americans live within ten states. • In 2000, the states with the largest Native American populations were California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. Twenty-one states have Native American populations which constitute less than 1% over their overall population, including states such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia. (Wikipedia) (c) ICFRC 2011

  8. The Myths • All Indian people get a check from the government every month. • All Indian tribes have casinos and make a lot of money • All Indians are rich • All Indians are poor • All land on Indian reservations is owned by Indian people • All Indian people share the same culture and traditions • Non-Indian people can’t go on Indian reservations without permission • All Indian people used to live in teepees • Why should states ‘take care of” Indian people? They don’t pay taxes…That’s what the Bureau of Indian Affairs is for. (c) ICFRC 2011

  9. The Principles of Indian Sovereignty and the Trust Responsibility A few basic principles provide guidance about the government relationship with Indian tribes: • the Constitution vests Congress with plenary power over Indian affairs; • Indian tribes retain important sovereign powers over their members and their territory, subject to the plenary power of Congress; and • the United States has a trust responsibility to Indian tribes that guides and limits the Federal Government in dealings with Indian tribes. Thus, federal and tribal law generally have primacy over Indian affairs in Indian country, except where Congress has provided otherwise. (c) ICFRC 2011

  10. Federal policies have impacted Indian tribes since first contact • Treaties, dependant sovereign governments, and federal trust relationships play a role in all tribal communities. (c) ICFRC 2011

  11. History of child welfare services in tribal communities • Historically, tribal communities had no need for child welfare systems that exist in mainstream society today. Traditional beliefs, structures, customs and values about child rearing and protection provided the ‘safety, permanence and well-being’ of traditional American Indian/Alaska Native communities. • No courts and no social workers existed to ensure child safety. Through community values, peer pressure and other cultural practices enforced by extended family, a natural child protection system existed. (c) ICFRC 2011

  12. Western contact and influence • But since earliest contact by non-Indians with Native people, most attempts to “civilize” American Indian and Alaska Native people focused on children. • Ongoing efforts were made to separate children from their families as a way to assimilate and acculturate Native people. This actually had the opposite effect of decreasing natural resiliency and protective factors. • The Civilization Fund Act of 1819 was created by the United States legislature to encourage activities of benevolent societies in providing education for Native Americans and also authorized an annuity to stimulate the ‘civilization process. (Wikipedia) (c) ICFRC 2011

  13. Civilization Fund Act - 1819 • The Civilization Act intended to “civilize” and Christianize Indians through federal and private means. (c) ICFRC 2011

  14. Removal Act - 1830 • The Removal Act was enacted to move Indians away from traditional homelands to “Indian Territory” west of the Mississippi (c) ICFRC 2011

  15. Solving the ‘problem’ through the children • In a report to Congress in 1867, the commissioner of Indian services declared that the only way to deal with the “Indian problem” was to separate children completely from their tribes. • In support of this policy, both the government and private institutions developed military-like boarding schools for American Indian/Alaska Native children. (c) ICFRC 2011

  16. Indian Boarding Schools1860s – present Children were removed from their homes and families and sent to military style boarding schools (c) ICFRC 2011

  17. The intent of boarding schools was to acculturate Native American children into mainstream society (c) ICFRC 2011

  18. Other federal laws disrupted Native families and traditional tribal ways of life • Under the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887, reservation land was divided up in an effort to turn Indian people into nuclear families and farmers. The Act introduced the ‘blood quantum’ concept of tribal enrollment. • The Homestead Act allowed non-Natives to homestead any surplus lands after the allotments were made to tribal members. This created ‘checkerboard jurisdictions’ on Indian reservations (non-Indian and Indian lands within the same boundaries) (c) ICFRC 2011

  19. The 20th century… • By 1900 the rearing of Native children was largely under the control of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs – an agency formerly under the War Department - and tribes had been effectively stripped of the natural systems of child protection. (c) ICFRC 2011

  20. Other 20th century federal laws and policies impacting tribal children and families • Federal and private agency policies and practices • Indian Adoption Project (Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Child Welfare League of America) • Public Law 83-280 in 1953 • “Relocation Program” - 1950s • 1960s: tribes began challenging the placement rate of their children into non-Indian homes (c) ICFRC 2011

  21. Advocacy and Action in the 1970s • 1970s: the Association on American Indian Affairs, a private organization in New York, conducted national surveys to learn the extent of Indian child welfare issues. • Their studies found 25-35% of all Indian children had been removed from families and placed in non-Indian care (c) ICFRC 2011

  22. Finally… after years of antagonistic and destructive policies impacting American Indian and Alaska Native peoples, the voices of tribes and tribal advocates led to action … In 1978 … Congress passed the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (c) ICFRC 2011

  23. Indian Child Welfare Act (Public Law 95-608) • Congressional Findings: • (3) that there is no resource that is more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their children and that the United States has a direct interest, as trustee, in protecting Indian children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe; • (4) that an alarmingly high percentage of Indian families are broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public and private agencies and that an alarmingly high percentage of such children are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions; and • (5) that the States, exercising their recognized jurisdiction over Indian child custody proceedings through administrative and judicial bodies, have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families. (c) ICFRC 2011

  24. ICWA has two overall focuses • To affirm existing tribal authority to handle child protection cases (including child abuse, child neglect, and adoption) involving Indian children and to establish a preference for exclusive tribal jurisdiction over Indian children residing or domiciled on the tribe’s reservation. • To regulate and set minimum standards for the handling of those cases remaining in state court and in state child protection agencies. (c) ICFRC 2011

  25. While it was cause for celebration in tribal communities, ICWA has not solved all tribal child welfare concernsTribes continue to be affected by impacts of history (c) ICFRC 2011

  26. Historical Trauma • Trauma upon trauma that occurs in history to a specific group of people causing emotional, mental and spiritual wounding both during their lives and in the generations that follow. (c) ICFRC 2011

  27. Intergenerational Grief • Grief that is passed down from the generation experiencing the trauma to their children (the next generation) even though they may not be aware of or have direct experience of the actual traumatic events. (c) ICFRC 2011

  28. Many mental health and social service practitioners attribute the deeply-rooted historical trauma and intergenerational grief with the challenges experienced in many tribal communities today… poverty, child neglect and abuse, substance abuse, high school drop out rates, suicide, domestic violence, illness.. (c) ICFRC 2011

  29. While tribal communities experience daunting challenges, there are many who are focused on addressing these needs to build a strong and better future for children and families. (c) ICFRC 2011

  30. “Tribal sovereignty is being able to actively and consciously participate in the creation of our own future. If our future is decided by others, we are not really sovereign. There is a direct relationship between sovereignty and the capability of tribal governments to determine what our future will be. Tribes want to exercise sovereign authority, to determine our own futures, to develop our own collective and individual visions for the future of human service delivery in tribal communities.”(Dr. Eddie F. Brown, Imagining a New Future for American Indian Human Service Systems, 2002) (c) ICFRC 2011

  31. Today, tribes across the country have assumed responsibility for many community services, including child protection and family support services. There is a movement of cultural renewal and revitalization in an effort to counteract the effects of historical trauma. (c) ICFRC 2011

  32. …so how are child welfare services provided in Tribal communities? (c) ICFRC 2011

  33. Many Tribes have community systems that look similar to towns and cities: • Leadership (Tribal Councils) • Law enforcement • Tribal courts • Health clinics • Social Services • Child welfare services: • Child protection workers • Case managers • Foster home workers • Indian Child Welfare workers • Family preservation workers (c) ICFRC 2011

  34. But multiple jurisdictional issues impact and challenge tribal child welfare systems Child welfare services for American Indian/Alaska Native children residing on tribal lands is often complicated by multiple, overlapping and often unclear lines of authority and responsibility between tribes, state or county programs and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Issues of jurisdiction, sovereignty and governance have played a major role in the development of tribal child welfare systems. (c) ICFRC 2011

  35. P.L. 638 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, 1975 • Public Law 93-638, known as “638”, conferred on tribes ‘the right to make their own decisions without interference from others.’ • The ISDA directs BIA and the Indian Health Service (IHS) to contract out to tribes most of the services administered by these agencies. The Act also authorized grants to help strengthen tribal management of Indian community services. • The Act has an explicit disclaimer that the law is in no way a termination of the federal government’s trust responsibility to Indian tribes. • The Self-Determination Act offered the first opportunity for tribes to be empowered to re-assume responsibility for the direction of their communities. (c) ICFRC 2011

  36. The role of the state in tribal child welfare services In some states, such as California, Michigan, Alaska and others, Public Law 280 also provides concurrent jurisdiction in Indian country. This means the county child welfare agency may provide child protective services and child welfare services on Indian reservations in the state. In other states, such as Montana, North and South Dakota and others, child welfare services are spelled out through agreements or contracts. For example, in some states, the state passes through federal Title IV-E funds to the tribes, who then manage the program services. (c) ICFRC 2011

  37. The role of the BIA in tribal child welfare services The Bureau of Indian Affairs is responsible for assuring that child welfare services are available to members of Federally recognized tribes (who reside on reservations) for whom such services are not otherwise accessible. (For example, if a child is not IV-E eligible, the BIA would likely pay for services for that child if the child is an enrolled tribal member.) (c) ICFRC 2011

  38. The role of state, tribal and BIA child welfare services in tribal communities varies from tribe to tribe. Some tribes are ‘self-governance,’ meaning that they have compacted the services formerly provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and they handle those services completely. (c) ICFRC 2011

  39. The Role of Tribes in Child Welfare Services Delivery on Indian Reservations • Depending on the size of the Tribe, the child welfare program will perform similar functions (on a smaller scale) as a state or county child welfare programs – although with considerably less staff and funding. (c) ICFRC 2011

  40. Often, tribal workers wear multiple ‘hats’ to cover all of the tasks required of small programs who must meet tremendous community needs. • For example, a foster care worker may also be the ICWA worker – handling ICWA cases arising all over the country. • Or there may be just one person in the role of Director/ICWA worker. (c) ICFRC 2011

  41. One of the most significant differences between social work delivery as a state/county worker vs. social work delivery as a tribal worker in tribal communities is that there may be significant blood and social ties between the staff and the community members being served. (c) ICFRC 2011

  42. While these ties may be challenging at times in assuring that services are provided by neutral staff, these community ties also create a more unique passion for the job. The desire to improve outcomes for children and families is often more personal because the community is an extension of family and lifelong social relationships. (c) ICFRC 2011

  43. Training and Technical Assistance • Like state child welfare agencies, tribal child welfare programs can benefit from outside training and technical assistance to enhance and support the services they are providing to the community. • It is not uncommon for tribes to access training and technical assistance to create new programs or improve existing services. (c) ICFRC 2011

  44. Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act - 2008 • New national child welfare legislation also brings new opportunities for tribal child welfare systems • The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act opens a door for developing tribal-state agreements as well as direct tribal access to Title IV-E foster care funds (c) ICFRC 2011

  45. Continued… • This legislation also supports other important systems improvements such as: • Actively locating relatives for children in care • Guardianship subsidies • Sibling placements • Educational and health services stability (c) ICFRC 2011

  46. Fostering Connections as a mechanism for improving child welfare in Indian country • Increased relative search for children in foster care (including Native children involved in ICWA cases) • Assurances that all children’s (including Native children) educational and health needs are met in child welfare systems • Opportunities for tribal-state collaboration in development of tribal-state child welfare agreements (c) ICFRC 2011

  47. Collaboration tips when working with Tribal communities and child welfare systems • First, learn about the Tribal Nation you will be working with ~ • Learn on your own about the history and demographics • Find out if the tribe is located in a Public Law 280 state. What kind of jurisdictions are the tribal lands under (c) ICFRC 2011

  48. Ask the Tribal contact person about their community • Review the Tribe’s website if they have one • Learn about elected officials roles and titles (i.e., President, Chairman or Chairwoman, Principal Chief) • Be familiar with the tribal structure. How is the government set up to operate? (c) ICFRC 2011

  49. Ask about other community stakeholders who should be included in any meetings or work you are doing. • Be aware that ‘turf’ issues may exist among community service providers • Include the Tribal staff in all phases of planning and development of any work you are doing. (c) ICFRC 2011

  50. When working in Tribal communities, remember… • As outside service providers, we are invited guests to tribal communities - • Observe the host’s protocols • Be flexible (if a meeting starts late, it may require a modification of the agenda – go with the flow) • Assume that every tribal community you may work with is unique and NOT the same (culturally, linguistically, economically) (c) ICFRC 2011