Questions surround death of 2-year-old Ojibwe child in foster care
According to a criminal complaint, Kira Friedman was placed in the shower and left unattended by her foster dad, who is now facing manslaughter charges.
"This didn't have to happen. This little girl didn't have to die. She should be right here with her parents at this time," said Patti Larsen, a family spokesperson.
Larsen, who serves as the Sacred Hoop Coalition Director, was shepherding 2-year-old Kira Friedman's case through the St. Louis County Court system on behalf of the little girl's family, and believes her death was preventable.
"The maternal grandmother identified numerous people who would be potential placements for the child," she said.
Larsen wanted to ensure Kira was placed in a Native American home. Therefore, she says the County let this child down when they removed her from a Native foster home, and placed her with a white foster family in Duluth.
"Kira was just a number, was shipped off to a place," Larsen said.
At the family's request, Leech Lake Reservation got involved to find a Native foster home. When Kira was placed in a home in Bemidji, red flags were sent up right away.
"There was too many children in that place to properly care for a child with special needs, such as Kira," said Larsen.
Larsen says keeping Kira in the hands of the St. Louis County Court System is where her parents went wrong. However, a spokeswoman with the county says the child was no longer in their custody.
In a written statement the county said, "This case has been under the jurisdiction of Leech Lake Tribal Court for close to a year and custody has been with the Leech Lake Band. This matter is under active investigation by the authorities involved, so we would have no further comment on it."
Nonetheless, Larsen stresses the importance of applying the Indian Child Welfare Act to foster children. The act is a federal law that seeks to keep native children with native families.
"Follow ICWA. It's there for a purpose. It was placed there for a purpose in 1978 when so many kids were being lost," said Larsen.
In addition to the Indian Child Welfare Act, Larsen also mentioned the Minnesota Indian Preservation Act should be followed by government agencies, when dealing with Native foster children.