Senator John Hoeven today met with Spirit Lake Tribal Chairman Roger Yankton and senior officials of the Spirit Lake Social Services Department and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to make sure the tribal government is protecting the health and safety of children on the Spirit Lake reservation.
Hoeven was in Spirit Lake because of ongoing and unaddressed incidents of child abuse and neglect, staffing deficiencies and inadequate progress on the BIA's corrective action plan. Hoeven said failure to address these issues by a Sept. 10 review of the tribe's social services program could result in the BIA rescinding Spirit Lake's authority to administer social services on the reservation under the Indian Self Determination Act.
Hoeven said his meeting with Yankton and the officials was intended to ensure their full cooperation in working to remedy flaws in the tribe's administration of social service programs, specifically with regard to removing children from unsafe environments, securing background checks for placing children in foster care and developing procedures to ensure foster homes are safe.
"It is imperative tribal social services works with the BIA, Indian Health Services (IHS) and the State of North Dakota to ensure child safety on their reservation, and that they are transparent about the reforms they are making," said Hoeven.
The senator said the tribe must have people on staff to receive child abuse reports. Additionally, he said the tribe must train staff and administrators involved in delivering services, hire competent staff and bring on board a full-time social worker to help onsite. The senator is also pushing to have the BIA send reinforcements through its Social Work Team and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct timely background checks of potential foster homes for children.
Attending today's meeting were Spirit Lake Social Services Director Mark Little Owl, Acting Deputy Director Dennis Meier, BIA Superintendent Rod Cavanaugh, IHS CEO Arlene de la Paz and Tribal Police Officer Ray Cavanaugh. Hoeven and his staff have met throughout the spring and summer with high-ranking BIA and IHS administrators including BIA Director Michael Black and IHS Director Yvette Roubideaux.