A meeting scheduled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide Spirit Lake Sioux leaders and members an update on efforts to improve the tribe’s child protection services will be open to the public, a spokesman for Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and tribal officials confirmed.
Most of the cases involving at-risk Spirit Lake Nation children cited in earlier reports of suspected child abuse have not been investigated or dealt with by responsible federal, state or tribal officials, a federal whistle blower alleges in his 12th such report.
Mark Little Owl, hired last summer by the Spirit Lake Sioux to manage the tribe’s beleaguered child protection program, faces assault and other charges in connection with an Aug. 21 domestic disturbance at a Grand Forks apartment.
Let’s hope the federal government now takes a serious look at the Department of Human Services, regarding not only the troubles at Spirit Lake but also all the deficiencies that take place with the Child Protection Services and foster care programs under the department’s control.
In the statement, the tribal government suggests that it inherited the problem, that it’s dealing with it effectively and that whistleblowers and a malevolent press have made things worse. This level of defensiveness undermines the effectiveness of the tribe’s statement.
The Indian Health Service has rescinded its reprimand of a clinical psychiatrist who sounded the alarm over what he regarded as systemic failures to protect endangered children of the Spirit Lake Tribe.
Federal officials are stepping up oversight of the Spirit Lake Tribe’s social services programs in response to warnings that children’s health and safety are endangered by mismanagement. Michael S. Black, director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has outlined plans for corrective action with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and members of his staff.
If frustrated tribal members want to break the cycle of mismanagement, what can they do?
Here’s one idea. And it has nothing to do with tribal social services, the tribal council or the Bureau of Indian Affairs:
Make provisions for a permanent — and permanently free — press.
State officials have given the Spirit Lake Tribe until the end of March to correct deficiencies found in its administration of 36 foster children whose care is paid for by a program under an agreement with the Department of Human Services. Case plans for the children either didn’t exist, were incomplete or not up to date, a state review in January found.
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