Winner 2011

Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families

National Public Radio

The Indian Child Welfare act, passed by Congress in 1978, mandates that Native American children should not be separated from their relatives or tribes. At least 32 states, however, are failing in some way to abide by this law. This three-part series focuses on what is perhaps the most egregious violation of those guidelines, the actions of the Department of Social Services in South Dakota. There, some 700 children are removed from their homes each year. Most are placed in state-run foster care or group homes. Almost all foster care placements are with white families. Federal funding subsidizes these arrangements, to the tune of thousands of dollars. The series chronicles several Native families, all willing to take their own relatives into care. It also describes licensed Native foster care homes that have received no placements while children spend years with white families or in group homes. Following airing of this series, calls came for formal hearings, for federal prosecutorial intervention, and for immediate plans for action. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has organized a summit in South Dakota to ensure compliance with the law. And the South Dakota Department of Social Services may face a class action lawsuit on behalf of Native American families. For drawing attention to practices by a government department that ignores deep cultural needs in Native American communities, Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families receives a Peabody Award.


Correspondent: Laura Sullivan. Producer: Amy Walters. Editors: Susanne Reber, Steve Drummond, Keith Jenks, Jonathan Kern. NPR Staff and NPR Digital Staff: Barbara Van Woerkom, Alicia Cypress, Alyson Hurt, Nate Rott, Quinn Ford. Photographer: John Poole