Argus Leader Media reporter John Hult will join me at 3 today to talk about stories he wrote on the Indian Child Welfare Act for Sunday’s edition and the fallout from an NPR story more than a year ago.
I’m an NPR fan. I’m a listener and a supporter. The political reporting is top notch. I love the science and court stories. The music and literature and everything is just plain good. I learn something every day. Which is why I was so interested when I heard NPR was in the state investigating the application of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Obviously, with a 10 percent Native American population, South Dakota has a strong connection to the ICWA, which was passed in 1978. But our connection is deeper than most because former Sen. Jim Abourezk was one of the prime drivers of the legislation.
The NPR story said the state of South Dakota was doing a woeful job of placing Native kids with Native families and suggested that money was the core of the problem, questioning whether Gov. Dennis Daugaard used his connections to funnel federal money to his former employer Children’s Home Society, while lieutenant governor.
These are legitimate questions to be sure and the stories led to discussion in Congress and eventually lawsuits, which were filed last week.
We were interested to hear the stories and immediately made some inquiries when they were broadcast. We ran into a couple issues right away. First, the budget numbers that were used and second one of the prime sources in the story, who said the state wouldn’t place Indian children in her home, wasn’t licensed by the state.
Which is too bad. Because if the basic premise of the story is correct, that South Dakota isn’t doing enough to follow the parameters of the ICWA, then the problems with the story just take away from that.