"As a Montana foster and adoptive parent, tribal leader, and co-founder of the Indian Child and Family Resource Center, I have met and interacted with many of these vulnerable children and youth. I have heard their stories, shared their pain and celebrated their triumphs. These children belong to all of us. We are responsible for them and for their futures.
Foster care is intended to provide a temporary haven for abused or neglected children. Too often, children are removed from their homes and families and spend years in foster care, moving from home to home, losing contact with brothers and sisters, friends and family.
Most people who reach out to share their family with foster children need support and services to help these children heal. Yet current federal law excludes tribes from receiving direct Title IV-E funding that would help pay for these services.
Tribal governments can provide child welfare services, but unlike states, they cannot receive direct federal funding. This limits their ability to protect and serve abused and neglected children and restricts the scope and number of services that can be provided. Without access to reliable funding, tribes struggle to provide needed services to children and youth in foster, adoptive and guardianship placements are hampered, and vulnerable Native American children suffer. As a result, we as tribal governments find ourselves managing crises rather than responding to the core issues that put children at risk.
Bipartisan legislation now before Congress, the Tribal Foster Care and Adoption Act of 2007
, would help tribes better address the needs of their communities by allowing them direct access to federal foster care and adoption funds. This bill would enable tribes to serve our children directly with culturally appropriate care and understanding and would create accountability to ensure that tribes meet the needs of the children. The legislation, introduced by Montana's own Sen. Max Baucus, would help ensure that Native American children and families can stay together whenever possible, and that they can access the programs and services they need without having to be separated from their culture.
A child coming into a family is like coming into a warm house after life out in the cold for a long time - the love and support of a family is like the warmth from a fire. But without reform of the foster care system, including passage of the Tribal Foster Care and Adoption Act, tens of thousands of Indian children, our children, will be left out in the cold."
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Tracy C. King: Pass legislation to better life for American Indian foster children
(The Billings Gazette 5/24)