Senators John Hoeven and Kent Conrad and Congressman Rick Berg met Wednesday with Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Del Laverdure, Bureau of Indian Affairs Administrator Mike Black, and other federal officials to review progress on the agency's plans to assume administration of the social services program on the Spirit Lake reservation.
The purpose of the meeting was to review steps the agency is taking to ensure child safety on the reservation. The delegation emphasized that the agency needs to put good programs and people in place to ensure the safety of foster homes and other facilities. It's also important, the delegation said, to engage the community, including schools, law enforcement and other important institutions on the reservation, to help address the challenges. The officials said these steps are already in progress.
"Assistant Secretary Laverdure and Director Black are taking a thoughtful and assertive approach to the situation at Spirit Lake, hiring new staff and working to implement a corrective action plan to address the ongoing problems in the tribe's social services program," the delegation said in a joint statement.
The officials indicated that the transition to federal administration is underway. Three BIA staff are currently onsite in administrative roles, and they have hired two additional social services staff. The agency is currently identifying a range of positions to be filled as soon as possible to manage the current caseload.
BIA justice officers also reported that they are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney to investigate a number of criminal cases of abuse and neglect, and that they acted promptly when the allegations were made.