Thursday, September 20, 2012

Feds take over child welfare system at Spirit Lake Reservation

Timothy Williams reports today in the New York Times on the latest chapter of the saga of children at the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation in North Dakota.  I wrote this earlier post about the matter based onWilliams's reporting earlier this summer.  Below is an excerpt from today's story:
Federal officials are now moving to take over the tribe's social service programs, according to members of the tribe, government officials and documents.  The action comes after years of failure by government and tribal law enforcement officials to conduct proper investigations of dozens of cases of child sexual abuse, including rape.  
While members of the tribe say that sexual violence against children on the reservation is common and barely concealed, the reasons for the abuse here are poorly understood, though poverty and alcohol are thought to be factors.  The crimes are rarely prosecuted, few arrests are made, and people say that because of safety fears and law enforcement's lack of interest, they no longer report even the most sadistic violence against children.  
Williams quotes one former social worker for the tribe who had a case load of 131 children, 100 more than the state's average.  Williams story is principally a catalog of shocking and egregious failures of child welfare officials to protect the children of Spirit Lake, including from even public sexual assaults.

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