Excerpt: 1974 TESTIMONY (prior to ICWA)
HEARINGS BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS OF THE COMMITTEE ON INTERIOR AND INSULAR AFFAIRS UNITED STATES SENATE NINETY-NINTH CONGRESS
SECOND SESSION ON PROBLEMS THAT AMERICAN INDIAN FAMILIES FACE IN RAISING THEIR CHILDREN AND HOW THESE PROBLEMS ARE AFFECTED BY FEDERAL ACTION OR INACTION. APRIL 8 & 9, 1974:
SECOND SESSION ON PROBLEMS THAT AMERICAN INDIAN FAMILIES FACE IN RAISING THEIR CHILDREN AND HOW THESE PROBLEMS ARE AFFECTED BY FEDERAL ACTION OR INACTION. APRIL 8 & 9, 1974:
Dr. GURWITT: Let me introduce myself, I'm Dr. Alan Gurwitt, Associate clinical professor in child psychiatry, and this is Dr. Carl Mindell who is from Albany.
Dr. MINDELL: I'm also a child psychiatrist. I'm on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at Albany Medical College.
Dr. GURWITT: We're unofficial representatives for the American Academy of Child Psychiatry which has a task force in American Indian affairs.
This is not an official position of the academy, but it comes as the result of our work, and particularly the work of Dr. Carl Mindell who spent two years with the Indian Health Service at Pine Ridge. We have a statement, a formal statement, which will be available to you later, which we are not going to read in full. Our major concerns have to do with just the issues that have been addressed today in regard to child placement issues.
As child psychiatrists, we are concerned about the source of conditions that have to do with the proper and necessary ingredients that go into child rearing. We've been very concerned as a professional group, the American Academy, the American Psychiatric Association as well, has been very concerned about the problems that we've heard about today among the American Indian families.
We wanted to particularly focus on issues having to deal with issues of dependency and neglect. We're not going to address ourselves to the problems raised by Indian boarding schools and the impact on children and adolescents that are in boarding schools. Others have already addressed that issue; and Dr. Robert Bergman, who will be testifying tomorrow, I think, is quite expert in the area and will focus on that.
You've heard some of the alarming statistics in regard to the instance of placing the American Indian children outside of their homes, outside of their reservation, because of a variety of reasons that you've heard about. We wanted to give our view of some of the factors that seem to be related to these particular events which in essence seem to sum up two particular trends.
One is that American Indian children are being placed outside the home at rates that are alarming; and secondly, that American Indian children are being placed in non-Indian homes at a rate that is equally alarming.
We think this reflects several things. One, the Bureau of Indian Affairs policy and State welfare policy of getting Indians into the mainstream of America, while this policy has changed at higher levels of the Bureau, its impact at lower levels continues to be present, and we think this has a devastating effect over many generations and continues to have a devastating effect on children. Second, the options available for placement are either not available or are inaccessible for varied reasons, families are disorganized; or are having difficulty in providing for needs of the children; and usually do know well in advance the placement decision.
Decisions to place the child often assume that other options have failed, whereas, too often little effort has been made to intervene early with support for the child and his family by the State and Federal agencies and, occasionally, by the tribe. Too often, the only clear option appears to be placement.
Third, the decision to remove the child from his parents is often made by poorly trained Federal and State agency personnel and without the parents understanding their rights. For example: where they have voluntarily waived their parental rights without understanding the implications. In effect, it operates as a lack of informed consent.
Fourth, the child has had no advocate in court to represent his interests, nor in most cases, his parents. And in our testimony we'd like to emphasize, too, not only these rights of the parents, but the rights of the child to legal counsel.
Fifth, when the decision to place the child is made in court, it is often made by State court which does not utilize the available and often rich information in the child's extended family and neighboring community related to potential support and care.
We witnessed this kind of thing in North Dakota several months ago at a tribal court where a white judge was presiding while there was a great wealth of information available to that judge if he would just ask people who were in the courtroom. It was not asked, and the kinds of vital decisions about where the children were going to live were, therefore, really very poorly informed decisions.
Sixth, the standards used in making the placement reflect the majority’s culture criteria for suitable placement and do not take into sufficient account what may be appropriate within the child's social welfare. This is the issue that other people have already raised in regard to housing arrangements, the number of square footage it takes. The kinds of criteria they don't take into consideration, what constitutes a warm, giving, adequate home, a psychological home.
Seventh, the tribes generally have been given little or no responsibility for controlling or monitoring the flow of moneys available for child care. There seems to be no systematic review of placement judgments to be sure that the child's placement offers her (or him) the least detrimental alternative.
And last, there is no person or agency charged with focusing on the needs of Indian children with, for example, compiling information and developing comprehensive planning models adaptable to different regions, different tribes, different settings.
We'd like to comment on something that Dr. Westermeyer already mentioned in regard to what is the psychological impact on children and adolescents of being placed outside of their families and reservation. I'm not sure that we quite fully agree with Dr. Westermeyer that the impact isn't felt earlier while it is more obviously felt and seen in kinds of ways very vividly described in adolescents. In less vivid ways, it can be seen in younger children, too. To be torn away from a setting where they might feel at home, to be placed in one home after another, to never have any sense of permanence, never know where they're going to be next, to never be able to be sure of anything, doesn't exactly provide trust and security, trust in people and security in their lives. We feel that there is evidence, but maybe it is less overt in children as well as in adolescents. There is a pervasive sense of abandonment, a sense of depression, and a sense of having been neglected and anger in regard to that, but not one that someone can normally see.
We've had the opportunity, particularly Dr. Mindell, to visit the Indian communities where a great deal is being done by tribal councils, tribal welfare committees, and tribal courts. These kinds of activities include the establishment of improved homes, early education facilities, arrest facilities, residential care facilities.
At one reservation we saw family development centers for the whole family including children, who are able to remain for a period of time. Much more is needed to be done, and our final recommendation have to deal with the kind of things that we think might be facilitory, particularly in regard to aiding the tribal councils to carry out some things that they might want to do. And the impact, I might say, of what we'd like to say is that we think, particularly, that the tribal councils themselves are best equipped to carry out whatever is implemented. It's not up to, as we mentioned before -white child psychiatrists, white doctors, whatever - to do this.
First, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and State welfare agencies, which are the recipients of Federal funds, should make an explicit and overall goal of supporting the integrity of Indian families and communities. This sounds like something very simple and already well known, but it's really like a very important statement in the sense that there isn't, as far as we can tell, and from what you’ve heard today, a real sense of protecting at all costs the integrity of the family and supporting the family before destruction occurs.
Second, increasing the options available to Indian communities, besides placement, and mandating the integration of these options into a continuum of services under the general direction of the tribal government. The options would be flexible to respond to the needs of the individual family. Such options might include such things as mentioned today, the in-home help, homemaker care, home counselor childcare to both the family and the children, various kinds of out-of-home help such as preschool facilities and after-school care, respite service to homes.
The third one, when placement is considered, the child and his parents each should be represented by an advocate. This would help to insure that the interests of each, which are not necessarily the same, which also may be different than the States interests, are represented.
Here we're facing the type of question, a complex question throughout the United States, whenever it comes to the issues of child custody or placement decisions by any board for any child, in any setting, that has to do with that fact that sometimes what is best for the child is not necessarily what is desired by the parents. It's a very complex type of issue and hopefully whatever the setting and whatever ethnic group, it will be possible for both parents and the children to be represented. . .
Senator Abourezk: Isn't it true though, that particular criteria "what's in the best interest of the child,” this is also used by welfare people as a cover without basis for doing what they want to do?
Dr. GURWITT: Exactly. According to what they think in their own particular appropriate background, may be appropriate.
Senator ABOUREZK. How do you make a separation then, and understand it is a very complex and very abstract kind of subjective thing. How do you make a distinction, if there is a distinction?
Dr. MINDELL: One of the things that we’re suggesting in our recommendations is that we consider the possibility of not always utilizing that principle "what would be in the best interest of the child," because it is so vague and so nebulous. What is just recently being discussed now and I think it is worthy of our consideration here: another principle would say, in a sense, "what would be least detrimental to the child," taking into consideration the fact that when the child gets to this point there's nothing really magical that welfare agencies are going to be able to do. So, which alternative is going to be the least detrimental to the child and there, keeping in mind, several things.
One is, that the decision is to be made quickly, because for a child, or what for us is a short time, for a child this is a long time; and that a child has the right to be wanted and that the issue of who is the child's psychological parent is also important. In other words, who is meeting the needs of the child becomes very important. Using that kind of criteria becomes hard, for example, for a judge to say, look this child has been cared for by this mother for the last three years. I’m about to make a decision about it. I'm going to place this child into temporary care here, until I can make my decision. Using the least detrimental alternative principle, the judge probably would have to leave the child with the mother while he is making a decision, not constantly change places.
Senator ABOUREZK: As long as I've interrupted, let me ask another question of either of you. You saw Anna Townsend attempting to testify earlier today and obviously her experience in a foster home is extremely traumatic to her and she wasn't in very long, as a matter of fact. Would you comment on whether or not even a short placement of a foster home, would you say, whether that experience would have a long- term effect on a child?
Dr. GURWITT: It certainly can and may have already. It all depends so much on the circumstances under which the child is placed, the nature of the home in which the placement took place and I think it would be very important to consider the degree of understanding of the child about why it takes place and to what degree of permanence or impermanence or whatever it would be.
One of the common phenomena of foster children of any ethnic group is the constant sense of not knowing where they will be or how long they'll be there. It's too painful and too upsetting to try to establish any roots. If they establish roots, they just get hurt again and again. To be torn away from the roots that they've begun to establish, leads them to decide that they're not going to get very close to anyone and certainly it has an impact on their whole life including their ability later on to be parents.
The rest of our recommendations can be summarized really by essentially one point, that is when it comes to standards, when it comes to funding, when it comes to channeling funding, we hope that the primary vehicle is the tribal government and the tribal court or the tribal welfare committee, whichever is appropriate authority within the tribe on the particular reservation involved, rather than through the welfare agency.
As far as the role of professionals is concerned, we certainly hope that the day will come when there are many more Indian professionals of all sorts; in the meantime, we hope that tribal courts do not wait for people like us, child psychiatrists or whatever, to help with decisions. We feel very confident, from the nature of the experiences that we've had that the Indian tribal courts are in the best position to make these essential and complex decisions.
Dr. MINDELL: Senator, in terms of one other recommendation, also, there are a lot of offices that focus on different kinds of things. For example, the Bureau has offices to focus on roads and on relocation and business development. There is no office that particularly focuses on the needs of children, especially the needs of Indian children, and that will be one of our recommendations also, that an office be established that would have as one of its duties to focus on the needs of Indian children.
Senator Abourezk: You mean in the Bureau of Indian Affairs?
Dr. MINDELL: I'm not sure where it should be.
Senator Abourezk: What about Indian Health Service?
Dr. MINDELL: I'm not sure of the Department of the Interior's abilities in terms of human services, so it might well be best in HEW and Indian Health Services. We hope that it might be possible not only to have some central focus in the Indian Health Service, but also regional offices as well, because it would have to be individualized according to the shape the region is in.
That particular recommendation is really, the only one that's quite different, or in addition to what Mr. Hirsch recommended before. We strongly go along with all of his recommendations that Mr. Hirsch made before.
Senator Abourezk: I wonder if before you go back to where you are working, if you would be willing to spend some time with the staff of the subcommittee to help us obtain some particulars from you, especially Dr. Mindell with his experience in the Indian Health Service. I might say we are now considering Senator Jackson's Indian health bill and we had hearings last week and we'll mark up the bill soon. I would like, personally, to consider adding, as an amendment to that bill, something along this line. We would like to get some particulars from you if you can do that.
Dr. MINDELL: Yes.
Senator Abourezk: If I may summarize, by way of a question, do you believe as well, that the tribe ought to have pretty much full control over the welfare of Indian children? And, you believe that there ought to be a central office somewhere, perhaps in the Indian Health Service, that is there to look after the interests of the Indian children so far as adoption, foster home care and other interests?
Have I left anything out of your overall recommendations?
Dr. GURWITT: That's the gist of it.
Senator Abourezk: I want to thank you both for appearing here today. That was excellent testimony. I'll ask Senator Bartlett, if he has any questions.
Senator BARTLETT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think you made the additional point that it is important to have communications at the tribal level, through the BIA, which I think would be a vital link to what you suggest. Do you have any suggestions, or do you feel that there has been adequate study made of this problem?
Dr. MINDELL: I think, from the testimony that we've heard today, and the many experiences we've had, I think there's certainly been adequate study made of it, but I think we know that Indian children, we may be able to refine the percentage slightly here or there, but I think the fact remains that Indian children are, to an appalling rate, being removed from their homes. And, that seems to be the solid important issue.
Senator BARTLETT: And this situation exists throughout the United States, in all States?
Dr. MINDELL: I think the association figures, are mostly of 16 states, where the number of children being removed is very high and also the number of children that are being placed in non-Indian homes is very high.
So, in one study, over 90 percent of children being placed up for adoption are in non-Indian homes, and in the second one, 85 percent of the children are being placed in non-Indian foster homes.
Dr. GURWITT: That issue, of the non-Indian placement is an important one throughout the country. There was a study by the Child Welfare League a few years ago in the major city, retrospectively as to what decisions were made in terms of child placement over a long period of time, how were they made and were they good decisions, as best as could be determined.
Senator Abourezk: In your experience, either of you, in these court proceedings, or even in the lack of court proceedings, is generally the burden of showing need for removal of the child, or movement of the child to one place or another, on the parents or is it on the welfare agency? Who has to show that the child has to move somewhere?
Dr. MINDELL: The experience that we've had seems to show that the courts do take the word of the welfare agent (social worker) much more readily than they take the word of the parents, who by the way are not usually represented by any kind of advocate, where the decision may be made in the courtroom itself, but in the backroom in terms of a conversation between the judge and the welfare worker and the judge then comes out and goes through the motions of having a hearing. The judge's mind is made up beforehand on the basis that the welfare worker gives.
Senator ABOUREZK. Generally, in any kind of a legal action the burden of proof is upon the moving party, and in criminal action, it's upon the prosecutor of the State; in civil action, generally, it's the plaintiff or the person who brings the lawsuit. He is then given the burden of either the preponderance of the evidence or beyond a shadow of a doubt, as the terms are used, to prove his case. I take it, from what you're saying, what happens then in relation to Indian family situations, is that the welfare department, in a lot of cases, will come in, take the child without benefit of any kind of due process. Then, in order to get the child back, the burden of proof shifts from the moving party, which should be the welfare, over to the family themselves. Is that an accurate statement?
Dr. GURWITT: Yes, it would seem to be the case. It would seem then that the parents who would like to bring the child back have a very hard time getting heard at the hearing.
Senator Abourezk: Would you recommend that the division be made that the burden be made on the welfare department itself through some kind of legal procedure?
Dr. MINDELL: I think our recommendation would also imply that the placement of an Indian child should take place under the auspices of the Indian tribal court and the placement decisions, generally be under the auspices of the tribe.
Senator ABOUREZK. What about the burden itself, the burden of proof, where should that rest?
Dr. MINDELL: Again, with the person bringing the allegation.
Senator Abourezk: Do you have something, Doctor?
Dr. GURWITT: Yes, if possible, the proceedings and administrative process could be shifted to the tribal court. I would think then that the burden of proof would be up to the particular tribal court and its tribal welfare committee, or however it operates; but the essential thing is that it be within the tribal auspices rather than the outside social group.
Senator ABOUREZK. Excuse me, Senator. Do you want to finish?
Senator BARTLETT: As a general rule, do you feel that children should not be placed up for adoption with non-Indian parents?
Dr. MINDELL. I think, as a general rule, that the resources of the Indian community are not being used by people that are even thinking or talking about adoption. I think there are several issues here. One is that welfare agencies tend to think of adoption too quickly without having other options available, such as - there are a number of things that can be done to help support a family or origin before you have to get to the point of thinking about adoption.
Once you're at the point of thinking about adoption, it seems to us that welfare agencies are not making adequate use of the Indian communities themselves. They tend to look elsewhere for adoption-type of homes.
Senator BARTLETT: I understand that. I’m still wondering about my question as to whether or not as a general rule you think it is advisable not to have Indians placed in non-Indian homes?
Dr. MINDELL: As a general rule, yes.
Dr. GURWITT: Yes.
Senator BARTLETT: Then you suggest that there should be inputs by the Indian community in advance of adoptions and approvals by the tribe, is that correct?
Dr. GURWITT: Yes.
Senator BARTLETT: As well as oversight for adoptions that have been consummated to see how those progress, is that correct?
Dr. GURWITT: Yes.
Senator BARTLETT. And, there should be a tie-in with the BIA, or with some governmental end, not for decision-making, but for support?
Dr. MINDELL. Yes.
Senator BARTLETT. Thank you for your fine testimony. appreciate it very much.
Senator Abourzek: Thank you very much for coming up to testify.
THE PLACEMENT OF AMERICAN INDIAN CHILDREN -THE NEED FOR CHANGE
Each state in the United States has a statute which allows its agent (usually the juvenile or family court) to intrude into the privacy of a family and to consider separating the child from his/her family.
This ordinarily would occur when:
(1) the child has been involved in delinquent acts;
(2) when the child has no recognized or legally appointed guardian (i.e., is dependent or abandoned)
(3) when the child's needs are not being met by the family (i.e., is neglected);
(4) or when the child is being hurt in his/her family (i.e., is abused).
The principle which governs this intrusion has generally been “the best interests of the child.”
This principle has few standards or criteria facilitating its interpretation and therefore allows for wide variations in how individual states' agents or courts put it into practice.1
This at least allows for, and perhaps encourages the states’ agent to use his own value and moral system in evaluating the child-rearing of any particular family who comes before it. Thus, the judge's (social worker's, probation officer's) estimates of the child's needs and family's ability to meet those needs, may be based on his own individual and class values which may differ from the child and his family. Moreover, the greater the degree of powerlessness of a family, the greater is the likelihood of the state's 'benevolent' intrusion, especially when coupled with few standards and no systematic review of judgements.
Such intrusion by state and federal government agents has long been prevalent among families of American Indians, particularly those living on reservations. (There are approximately 800,000 American Indians-about 500,000 live on a reservation.)
This intrusion occurs in three areas:
(1) where a child is held to be dependent-abandoned;
(2) where a child is considered to be neglected;
(3) and for another reason altogether; to meet the child's educational needs.
In the last Instance, the policy of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (B.I.A., part of the Department of the Interior) has been, on some reservations, to send children as young as six years old to a distant boarding school. Previously this was a widespread practice with the overt aim of "helping" Indian children enter the mainstream of American life. Now, supposedly, the practice continues in regions where educational opportunities have not been otherwise developed; where there are difficult home situations; or deviant behavior.
This past educational practice has had a devastating effect on several generations of Indian children, their family life, their specific culture, their sense of identity and their parenting abilities. It is quite likely that the present practices continue to have the same destructive impact for the message is the same: It is better for Indian children to be reared by other than their parents and people. The complex issues relating to the B.I.A. boarding schools have recently been addressed by the American Psychiatric Association’s Task Force on Indian Affairs, in an editorial in The American Journal of Psychiatry. 2
We would like to focus here on the removal of American Indian children from their families and communities by government and voluntary agencies ostensibly for reasons of dependency or neglect.
According to the Association on American Indian Affairs, the practices of governmental and private adoption agencies have resulted in the wholesale and often unwarranted removal of Indian children from their homes reservations and people. The figures are alarming. In the states of North and South Dakota, approximately as many Indian children as white children on a per capita basis are living in foster homes.
In Montana the rate is 10 times the national foster home placement rate. In Minnesota, the rate of foster home placement is four and a half times greater than for non-Indian children.
Further, in Minnesota, an example, in 1971-72, there were about 1,413 Indian children under 18 in adoptive placement while there were 241 Indian children under 18 in foster care. In Minnesota then, during 1971-72, one in every seven Indian children was in placement outside of their own homes.
Ninety-one percent of the adoptions were in non-Indian homes.
In a survey of 16 states, approximately 85% of all Indian children in foster care are placed in non-Indian homes.
In the United States, one in every 200 children lives outside of his home of origin.
In North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska one in every nine Indian children are in foster homes, adoptive homes, institutions or boarding facilities.
Indian children in these states are out of their homes at a rate of twenty times the national average.
1 Rodham, Hillary. Children Under the Law, Harvard Educational Review, 43, No.4, 1973.
2 A Hazard to Mental Health: Indian Boarding Schools" The American Journal of Psychiatry, 131, No. 3 (March 1973)
3 Indian Family Defense, New York: Association on American Indian Affairs, Inc., Winter, 1974.
4 Another Chapter In the Destruction of American Indian Families." Yale Reports, Oct. 21, 1973, No. 654.
There are, then, two trends:
(1) American Indian children are being placed outside of their natural homes at a rate which is alarming. This appears to be a final common pathway reflecting:
1. The Bureau of Indian Affairs' policy and state welfare agencies policy, of getting Indians into the mainstream of America. While this policy has changed at higher levels of the Bureau, its impact at lower levels continues to be present.
2. Options available to placement are either not available, or are inaccessible for varied reasons. Families which are disorganized or are having difficulties in providing for the needs of their children are usually known well in advance of the placement decision. The decision to place the child often assumes that other options have failed whereas, too often, little effort has been made through intervening early with support for the child and his family by the tribe, state and federal agencies. Too often the only clear option appears to be placement.
3. The decision to remove a child from his parents is often made by poorly-trained federal and state agency personnel and without the parent's understanding their rights, e.g., where they may voluntarily waive their parental rights without understanding the implications.
4. The child has had no advocate in court to represent his interests, nor, in most cases has his parents.
5. When the decision to place the child is made in court, it is often made by a state court which does not utilize the available and often rich information in the child's extended family and neighboring community related to potential support and care.
6. The standards used in making the placement reflect the majority culture's criteria for suitable placement (e.g., so many square feet of space available for a foster child in the home) and do not take into sufficient account what may be modal within the child's socio-cultural milieu. Thus Indian families are discriminated against as potential foster families.
7. The tribes generally have been given little or no responsibility for controlling or monitoring the flow of monies available for child care.
8. There is no systematic review of placement judgements to insure that the child's placement offers him the least detrimental alternative.
9. There is no person or agency charged with focusing on the needs of Indian children - with, e.g., compiling information and developing comprehensive planning modals adaptable to different regions.
Often the later development of these Native American children placed in off-reservation homes is severely affected. Though cared for by devoted and well-intentioned foster or adoptive parents, they are subject, particularly in adolescence, to ethnic confusion and a pervasive sense of abandonment with its attendant multiple roots and ramifications. Their young adulthood and their own potential parenting abilities are affected. Recently, Indian communities have become more actively involved with these threats to their survival. In some instances tribal councils have established welfare committees to become involved with decisions pertaining to child neglect and dependency and have adopted more stringent tribal codes governing child welfare matters. Depending on local circumstances, including the varying degree of jurisdictional authority, relationship with the B.I.A., availability of assistance from the Indian Health Service (a section of the Public Health Service) and welfare department, such active participation on the part of tribal groups has led to a reduction of off-reservation placements. Indeed, there are some innovative efforts by Indian tribes to find and support foster homes, establish group homes, residential centers for families and provide for other child-care services. The major point here is the assumption by tribal groups of parental and, in many senses, grand-parental authority vis-a-vis families and children in their community.
While some changes in the practice of child placement have begun on some reservations, more needs to be done. The following are recommendations related to the specific reasons given previously:
1. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and state welfare agencies which are the recipients of federal funds should make explicit an overall goal of supporting the integrity of Indian families and communities. In the area of child placement, this policy would be implemented by recommendation No.2.
2. Increasing the options available to Indian communities, besides placement, and mandating the integration of these options into a continuum of services under the general direction of the tribal government. The options would be flexible, i.e., able to respond to the needs of an individual family which would vary with time.
Such options might include:
(a) in-home help, such as Homemaker care, Home Counselor-Child Rearers able to work within a family for extended periods of time, (b) out-of-home help such as pre-school care, after-school care, day care, respite service.
3. When placement is considered the child and his parents each should be represented by an advocate. This would help to insure that the interests of each, which are not necessarily the same, and which also may be different than the state's interests, are represented.
4. Decisions about the custody or placement of Indian children should be under the auspices of Indian tribal governments. Agency personnel and professionals would be available in an advisory capacity, but would not be decision-making.
5. Standards related to these decisions, should be developed by and monitored by groups under the auspices of the tribe. Thus decisions about evaluating and providing for the needs of a child and his family would be under the auspices of persons representing the child's and family's socio-cultural milieu.
6. Monies for the support and care of children should flow through the tribe, rather than through B.I. A., Welfare and state welfare agencies. Monies should be available for innovative responses to the need for child care-e.g., the funding of foster families at a rate reflecting their training, their experience and the
intensity of the child's needs; the development of group homes; the development of family centers; improving housing to allow for better child care; allowing for subsidized adoption, etc.
7. The tribe should be responsible for systematically reviewing judgements pertaining to child-care and placement in order to attempt to insure that the service is providing the child with the least detrimental alternative.
8. There is no office, at any level, charged with focusing on the needs of Indian children (while there are offices focusing on roads, business and economic development, relocation etc.). Since it seems likely that" children's rights cannot be secured until some particular institution has recognized them and assumed responsibility for enforcing them," 6 this issue should be explored.
These recommendations can be formally legislated by Congress. Indeed, the Association on American Indian Affairs has made very specific legislative recommendations that would enable broad implementation of some of these and related recommendations.
That states also can meet the spirit of these steps is evidenced by the recent establishment by Wisconsin of the American Indian Child Welfare Service Agency with an all-Indian policy board having responsibility for supervising all child placement decisions.
A recent book concerned with the complex issues of child placement highlights the importance of the decisions involved.
" ... by and large, society must use each child’s placement as an occasion for protecting future generations of children by increasing the number of adults-to-be who are likely to be adequate parents. Only in the implementation of this policy does there lie a real opportunity for beginning to break the cycle of sickness and hardship bequeathed from one generation to the next by adults who as children were denied the least detrimental alternative." 7
1 Goldstein, Joseph, Anna Freud, and Albert J. Solnit. Beyond the Best Interests of the Child. New York: The Free Press, 1973, pg 111.
6 Minookln, Robert, Foster Care: In Whose Best Interest? Harvard Educational Review, 43, No.4, 1973.
7 Children Who Cannot Live With Their Own Families, in Mental Health; From Infancy Through Adolescence by the Joint Commission on Mental Health of Children. 1973.