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Fed officials seek improvements at Spirit Lake

Officials from the Administration for Children and Families, a federal agency under the department of Health and Human Services, were on the Spirit Lake reservation Wednesday to find ways to keep children there safe.

Federal officials spent the day on a fact-finding mission, to determine what has gone wrong with child protection services on the reservation, south of Devils Lake.

Officials interviewed different groups throughout the day, to paint a more complete picture concerning the tribe’s social services program.

ACF administrator Tom Sullivan has been a vocal critic of tribal social services, releasing more than a dozen reports over the last two years documenting cases of child abuse and neglect.

Betty Jo Krenz met with the officials. The former tribal social worker has been criticizing the tribe for years for its handling of child protection.

She says she’s hopeful the attention from Washington could bring more accountability to Spirit Lake.

“ACF is here to try and produce a policy and a procedure, a manner in which to report abuse and a manner in which investigations are followed up on, which would be very helpful,” she said.

ACF officials wouldn’t comment on camera, but they say they’ll use the information they gathered during the meetings to create an assessment of tribal social services.

Spirit Lake tribal chairman Russ McDonald says he’ll then get a list of recommendations from the agency on ways to improve child safety for the reservation.