In its first week, more than 15,000 joined the Lakota People's Law Project in urging President Obama to end South Dakota’s “Foster Care Removal Epidemic” by funding the tribes directly to develop and provide their own child and family services. US government statistics show that 90% of the 750 Lakota foster children South Dakota seizes each year go into non-Native homes and locked group psychiatric facilities instead of being placed with their families or tribe as directed by Federal law.
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January 30, 2014
According to data from the State of South Dakota and the Federal Government, Lakota Sioux children are ten times more likely to be forcibly removed from their parents than Caucasian children, and now comprise over 60% of all foster children in South Dakota. Federal data demonstrate that the State continues to violate federal law by placing 90% of the 750 Lakota foster children it seizes each year into non-Native homes and locked group psychiatric facilities, instead of placing them with relatives or other Native Americans. The State receives up to $79, 000 from the federal government for each foster child.
The Lakota People’s Law Project has initiated theCampaign to Free the Lakota Children, which has already become the largest Native American Rights petition in MoveOn.org history. In just one week, more than 15,000 Americans signed the petition, which urges President Obama to use his Executive Branch authority to order the Department of the Interior, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services to shift their foster care funding from the State of South Dakota to new tribal-run Child and Family Service Programs.
The Campaign includes “Hearts on the Ground”, a stunning, heart-opening, 12 minute documentary web video by Kalyanee Mam, whose film about indigenous people in her native Cambodia won last year’s Sundance Film Festival Award. Since launching on Martin Luther King Day last week, Hearts on the Ground has had nearly 9,000 page views, inspiring thousands to sign the campaign’s petition.
“We are on the verge of an historic moment in Lakota history,” says Chase Iron Eyes, LPLP’s South Dakota legal counsel. “We have the solution, which is foster care programs run by Lakota tribes, not by the culturally biased and money-motivated DSS of South Dakota.”
Sara Nelson, Executive Director of the Lakota People’s Law Project, notes that transferring responsibility, and federal funding, from the State of South Dakota’s Department of Social Service to the tribes will not require additional federal funding, but it will support tribal sovereignty. In fact, Nelson explains, “Once the tribal foster care system starts placing foster children with their relatives (as required by the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978), instead of in psychiatric group homes (which bring in more than double the federal money) and white foster care, it will begin to heal the trauma which has come from decades of inhumane, family-destroying state run programs. Tribes are family, and the state is not.”
The national petition drive to Free the Lakota Children is being supported by members of MoveOn.org Civic Action, which seeks to facilitate “Americans from all walks of life who are fighting and winning campaigns for progressive change.” MoveOn Communications Director Nick Berning, says, “MoveOn members are organizing to protect the civil rights of Native Americans, and all Americans, and we are here to provide tools to grassroots organizations like the Lakota Law Project to help make this happen.”
The Lakota People’s Law Project t has been partnering with Lakota tribes and leaders in South Dakota since 2005 from its offices in Rapid City, S.D., and Santa Cruz, C.A. The project combines public interest law, research, education and organizing into a unique model for advocacy and social reform.
The Lakota People’s Law Project is sponsored by the non-profit t Romero Institute based in Santa Cruz, C.A. The Institute is named after slain human rights advocate Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. The Institute seeks to identify and dismantle structural sources of injustice and threats to the survival of our human family.