Governor's office calls NPR foster care report flawed; congressmen seek review

2011-11-01T07:00:00Z Governor's office calls NPR foster care report flawed; congressmen seek reviewKevin Woster Journal staff Rapid City Journal
November 01, 2011 7:00 am  • 

Staffers for Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Monday attacked a National Public Radio report critical of state child-protection programs that remove Native American children from their homes for foster-care placement, saying NPR was biased and inaccurate in its reporting.

But two members of the U.S. House of Representatives thought the NPR report was valid enough to call for an investigation into whether those South Dakota child protection policies and practices with Native American families violate federal law.

U. S. Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Dan Boren, D-Okla., sent a letter to Larry Echo Hawk, assistant secretary of the Interior Department for Indian Affairs, calling for the investigation. They allege, as the NPR report implies, that South Dakota violates the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law that directs officials to place Native American children removed from homes with their relatives or tribes, except in unusual situations.

That is not being done in South Dakota, according to the NPR investigation.

"If the information on the NPR article is accurate, it would appear that the state of South Dakota has failed not only to abide by the mandates of federal law but also failed its Indian children, their families and their tribes by violating the letter and spirit of ICWA," Markey and Boren said in the letter.

They added that Native American children were being placed in non-Indian homes or group care at "alarming rates," for what "appears to be for profit."

The state gets federal financial assistance for each child removed from the home.

The NPR investigative report also alleges conflicts of interest in Daugaard's work for Children's Home Society of South Dakota when he was lieutenant governor. Children's Home Society received millions of dollars for housing Native children under contracts with the state awarded without competitive bid, a practice that has been used and criticized in other professional service areas.

Daugaard staffers have said the governor did not use political connections to get the contracts, which they say Children's Home Society was highly qualified to receive.

Daugaard's staff issued statements critical of the NPR report even before it was aired. The staffers followed up Monday with seven pages of detailed rebuttals to the NPR report and allegations of inaccuracies and bias.

Daugaard senior aide Tony Venhuizen said Monday that it was unfortunate that two members of Congress representing other states didn't contact South Dakota officials before seeking an investigation into allegations about the state.

"These congressmen based their letter on an NPR report that was deeply flawed," Venhuizen said. "It's really too bad that they took this step without even asking the Department of Social Services or anyone in South Dakota for the facts."

None of South Dakota's three congressional members would comment Monday on the NPR report or on the call for an investigation by Markey and Boren. Staffers for Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said they needed to learn more before responding.

Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. sonny j
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    sonny j - November 01, 2011 1:50 pm
    This is so easy to solve. Don't intervene in these native families. Let the children stay where they are, then the tribe is happy, NPR is happy, and the state is happy.
  2. Inthemiddle
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    Inthemiddle - November 01, 2011 11:08 am
    Look at the entire system nationally. It won't be difficult to find more reactive situations than proactive involving Social Services. Many have ended with abuse and deaths of children. If this is true... the State of South Dakota (Social Services) is literally trafficking people for profit when you think about it.
    I wouldn't be too excited to blame our current govenor for this to all you haters. However, if there is a factual reality with NPRs claims... I believe this govenor will do the right thing.
  3. Observer57555
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    Observer57555 - November 01, 2011 10:39 am
    It's time for FULL disclosure on the part of the Department of Social Services. Even South Dakota's own Supreme Court has ruled many times against the state on cases regarding the Indian Child Welfare Act.

  4. Sicangu Warrior
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    Sicangu Warrior - November 01, 2011 9:45 am
    The flaw in the South Dakota Foster Care Report is that it does not go into enough foresnsic detail about the activity of the oppressors, i.e. The State Department of Social Services. They replaced the nuns and clergy of the boarding school era who had similar passion to save the NDN's from themselves. We all know how that played out in the eye of history and accountability. The State should have no issue with transparancy of facts. How much do they make off of Indian children, do all children of every color recieve the exact same services and elavuation as their peers in the systems. Does the State follow ICWA laws in accordance to the regulation they set? The good Governor Daugaard is in panic and damage control or he would not have a need to speak out on this as he is doing. Keep those dominos falling Mr. Daugaard as Tribal Nations have you on the ropes on this one!
  5. Runrun
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    Runrun - November 01, 2011 8:23 am
    The NPR report was full of blatant lies and half truths. It depicted social workers as monsters who kidnap children for profit. This is not happening. There are checks and balances to insure the law is being followed as closely as possible.
  6. Revelation
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    Revelation - November 01, 2011 7:57 am
    In my experience it seems that people removed from Native American homes are typically placed with a Native American relative. The few exceptions I've seen are usually when there aren't any stable relatives. I normally like NPR but this sounds like they are off-base on this and probably jumped to conclusions because displacement rates may be a little higher. Sadly, alcoholism rates on the reservation are much higher. I believe that is where the problem lies.
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