The Center for Native American Youth will host an event entitled “Indian Child Welfare – Highlighting the Invisible” today, June 6, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Aspen Institute. You can watch it via live webcast.
The event, moderated by former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan, will feature a dialogue between panelists about their personal perspectives on Indian child welfare—namely the Indian Child Welfare Act. The panelists will include: Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Hilary Tompkins; Treasurer of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Robert McGhee; and a Native American youth and intern at the Center for Native American Youth, Seanna Pieper-Jordan.
“The issue of Indian child welfare is of critical importance to the future of the more than 550 Indian tribes in this country,” said Senator Byron Dorgan, the Center’s founder and chairman, in a press release. “What is more precious to a population than its children?”
According to recent reports on the child welfare system, state agencies remove American Indian and Alaska Native children at three times the rate of other children in the welfare system. Additionally, these youth are more than twice as likely to be sent to foster care as children of other races, even those in similar circumstances. Further, an investigative report by NPR illustrated that, in South Dakota, these removals often occur under questionable circumstances and result in 90 percent of AI/AN children in foster care being placed in non-Native homes.
In 1978, more than one-third of American Indian and Alaska Native children were in foster care. That year, Congress passed a law, the Indian Child Welfare Act, to address the long history of removal of these children from their families and tribes. The law established a unique set of procedures to ensure that Native children are placed with immediate or extended family members, other tribal members, or in other Native American homes.
Panelist Seanna Pieper-Jordan, alum of the foster care system and member of the Blackfeet tribe of Montana, will share her perspective on Indian child welfare. “I want to make sure the voice of the invisible—the Native foster youth—is heard at a national level because child welfare isn’t just about the system,” remarked Seanna. “It’s about families, connections to culture, and love surrounding a child.”
Check out the live webcast.