Annie Todd

Annie Todd

Annie Todd covers state politics for the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls. She was born and raised in Colorado and graduated from the University of Wyoming.

South Dakota Searchlight reporter Makenzie Huber and Argus Leader reporter Annie Todd interview Gov. Kristi Noem, Department of Tribal Relations Secretary David Flute and Department of Social Services Secretary Matt Althoff at the Governor’s Office in the South Dakota State Capitol on Sept. 26, 2023. (Samantha Laurey/Argus Leader)

How the Argus Leader and South Dakota Searchlight reported The Lost Children series

By: and - November 17, 2023

Children can quickly lose interest in you when you’re helping them stack blocks, but also when you’re speaking with their grandmother about why she’s caring for them. They fall asleep in her arms as you witness her choke up, flashing back to when she and her younger brothers were split as young siblings at a […]

A tipi at the South Dakota Urban Indian Health summer culture camp in Sisseton. (Courtesy of SDUIH)

What’s being done to address the high number of Native children in foster care in SD

By: and - November 17, 2023

South Dakota government officials, tribal leaders, tribal child welfare coordinators, foster families and legislators agree: The overrepresentation of Native American children in the foster care system is a problem. Indigenous children made up nearly 74% of foster children in the state by mid-2023 — five times the actual representation of Native American children in South […]

A girl learns to hoop dance during the South Dakota Urban Indian Health summer culture camp in Sisseton. (Courtesy of SDUIH)

Cultural connection for Native foster children in South Dakota is lacking, foster parents say

By: and - November 16, 2023

Jennifer Johnson wondered if her boys hated her. She and her husband fostered and adopted the three brothers — all under 3 years old — in the early 2000s. The couple provided a safe, stable and loving home for the children, she recalled, but it seemed like the boys would try to sabotage their relationships […]

Juanita Scherich, ICWA supervisor for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, responds to emails in her office in Pine Ridge on Aug. 23, 2023. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Staffing and funding problems leave tribal child welfare offices scrambling

By: and - November 14, 2023

Christian Blackbird isn’t sure how many children fell through the cracks. He’d been at the Crow Creek Indian Child Welfare Act Office for more than a year with a staff of two under his management. But before he started in January 2022, the director’s chair he now sits in was vacant on and off for […]

Jewel Bruner tears up while holding her sleeping grandson Gabriel in her Eagle Butte home on Sept. 20, 2023. (Samantha Laurey/Argus Leader)

Foster families get paid, but not ‘kinship’ relatives caring for Native children

By: and - November 12, 2023

Eighteen-month-old Gabriel slowly fell asleep in his grandmother’s arms at the dinner table. It was mid-morning, and his two siblings were playing quietly with their uncle downstairs. Gabriel didn’t need his crib, or a security blanket or sound machine lulling him to sleep. He just needed his grandmother’s arms — a safe space. His home. […]

Toni Handboy, a counselor for Wakpa Waste Counseling Services, stands inside Inka Najin Oti (“The Red House") addiction recovery house in Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Reservation on June 16, 2023. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Tackling substance abuse with families in mind to prevent foster care placements

By: and - November 10, 2023

Sobriety was a 12-year journey for Toni Handboy. She tried to protect her children. She sent her daughter to live with her ex-husband in Oregon. Her son was placed with an aunt nearby after being removed by Child Protective Services. But the impact on her children ran deep. Even though Handboy tried to make sure […]

Jewel Bruner holds her 10-month-old granddaughter Emma on the patio of her home in Eagle Butte on Sept. 20, 2023. (Samantha Laurey/Argus Leader)

‘Setting the parent up for failure’: Reunification barriers reflect root causes of child removal

By: and - November 10, 2023

Toni Handboy and Christian Blackbird are constantly telling their clients not to give up. Handboy, a counselor at Wakpa Waste Counseling Services in Eagle Butte, and Blackbird, the Crow Creek Indian Child Welfare Act director, frequently work with parents trying to get their children back from the foster care system. But complying with reunification requirements […]

Christian Banley sits in front of her Aberdeen home on Aug. 23, 2023. Banley’s parental rights for two daughters were terminated earlier in the summer. (Samantha Laurey/Argus Leader)

‘Waiting for life to start again’: Family agonizes over parental termination

By: and - November 8, 2023

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story mentions mental health issues. If you need help or know someone who does, please call 988, the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, available 24/7 for free and confidential support.  Home is Christian Banley’s purgatory. The tan, unassuming clapboard house with a sagging awning and an overgrown front yard sits across the […]

A mural painted on the side of a boarded up apartment complex in Eagle Butte depicts an infant holding the hand of an elder. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota)

South Dakota inspired ICWA but still has high rate of Native children in foster care

By: and - November 6, 2023

Cheryl Spider DeCoteau was nervous. It was the Sisseton Wahpeton tribal citizen’s first time in Washington, D.C., and she sat in front of two senators, multiple congressional aides, lawyers and clerks in a large, wood-paneled committee room, bright lights shining down. Two of the 23-year-old’s sons, ages 5 and 3, sat in the audience while […]

Jessica Eagle Star helps her son Noran across the monkey bars at the park in Winner on Aug. 29, 2023. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

The Lost Children: Overrepresentation of Native American children in the SD foster care system

By: and - November 6, 2023

South Dakota officials have known Native American children are overrepresented in the foster care system for nearly 50 years. The Indian Child Welfare Act, a 1978 federal law, was meant to tackle the problem not just in the state but across the country at a time when Native children were regularly removed from their families. […]