Law considers what's best for the children in Native American ad - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Law considers what's best for the children in Native American adoptions

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In an effort to preserve Native American families, tribal members from across the state, Bureau of Indian Affairs representatives, and the country's top official on tribal issues are gathering this week to hear testimony, and work to stop violations.

The accusations are nothing new, but this week at a three day summit in Rapid City, tribal members and government officials are addressing the issue head on.

The summit was organized, in part, because of a National Public Radio broadcast in 2011, which slammed the state for improperly taking Native American children out of their homes and violating the law.

People attending the summit are giving and listening to testimony regarding the abuse and maltreatment of Native American children in state placed non-Indian foster homes.

But what happens when the there isn't anyone within the tribe willing or able to take a child in?

Can Native American kids get the same care and cultural knowledge living in a non-Indian household?'

KSFY News met one family that's staying mindful of their adopted daughters' cultural heritage

We spoke with someone who's part of our own KSFY family.

He and his wife recently adopted two Native girls.

But the girls also have a grandmother who lives in town.

And they make sure she's part of their girls' lives to keep their girls aware of their Native culture.

Jason Mitchell has no plans to deny his kids their heritage.

"We never want them to forget that. just because they're not living in a tribal home, that doesn't mean that they're not Native American," Mitchell said.

But having a big family wasn't always his plan.

"They were only supposed to be with us for six weeks, then six weeks eventually became two years. then me and my wife kind of decided here, let's start the adoption process," Mitchell said.

The Indian Child Welfare Act was meant to preserve native culture by keeping them with other Natives, but South Dakota has many foster families just like Mitchell's.

Scott Swier, Senior Partner Swier Law Firm, said "when you look at the make up of foster families in South Dakota, predominantly, they are not Indian families. They are predominantly non-Indian families who are willing to go through the process to open up their house to a child."

And while most natives may prefer Native children stay with Native families, Mitchell heard nothing but silence from the tribe.

"It was almost two years before we even heard anything from the tribe and that's when we found out there was a grandmother who lived here in town," Mitchell said.

Mitchell's girls are here to stay. He just finalized the adoption process three weeks ago.

"We have nothing but the best intention for our 2 girls, Angel and Janae, and that we love them . We just couldn't imagine our lives without them," Mitchell said.

Swier's worked on different cases involving native adoptions.

And while the law sets out to keep Native children within their culture, he says the courts look at what's best in the child's interest.

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