Foster care

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 […]

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. […]

The South Dakota Capitol building in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

House tanks last remaining bill to address Native American disparity in foster care placements

BY: - March 1, 2023

PIERRE – The House of Representatives shot down a bill that would have created a task force to study the causes and possible solutions for the disparate representation of Native American children in the foster care system. Senate Bill 191 sailed to the House with unanimous support from a House panel earlier this week. It […]

Sen. Red Dawn Foster, D-Pine Ridge, foreground, listens as Rep. Scott Odenbach, R-Spearfish, asks a question about a proposed task force on Native American children in foster care on Feb. 27, 2023, during a hearing at the Capitol in Pierre. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Panel backs task force to study foster care for Native American children

BY: - February 27, 2023

PIERRE – A House panel on Monday endorsed a two-year task force to study Native American overrepresentation in South Dakota’s foster care system. Senate Bill 191 cleared the full Senate last week. It’s the only bill related to Native children in foster care to have survived past a committee hearing so far this session.  The […]

Marcella Gilbert organizes Lakota cultural activities and provides respite care for parents at the Children’s Village operated by Simply Smiles in La Plant, South Dakota. Bryan Nurnberger, president and founder of the nonprofit, serves as interim director of the foster care village. (ARIELLE ZIONTS / KHN)

It takes a village: Foster program is a new model of care for Indigenous children

BY: - February 14, 2023

LA PLANT, S.D. — Past a gravel road lined with old white wooden buildings is a new, 8-acre village dotted with colorful houses, tepees, and a sweat lodge. The Simply Smiles Children’s Village, in this small town on the Cheyenne River Reservation, is home to a program aimed at improving outcomes and reducing trauma for […]