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First Nations peoples’ fight for their kids brought to the Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs

For some time now, I’ve been tracking and just barely beginning to write about the ongoing situation pertaining to First Nations children and the child “welfare” system.

The situation in Iowa is something I’ve written about before, see First Nations peoples continue to decry the ongoing stealing of their children for adoption. There has been an ongoing activism campaign by Native Peoples around this issue for years there.

In the past month or so there has been some new coverage and important new developments.

Testimony was given to the recently created Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs during a two-day meeting at Four Directions Community Center in Sioux City, Iowa as part of the lead in to a bill that is being drafted for the 2011 legislative session.

Stephanie Woodward’s article from last month  Moving forward on child welfare issues, and Iowa Commission Takes on Child-Welfare Morass (over on the dreadful HuffPo) should both simply be read in their entirety as they provide a solid backgrounder and lots of important details.

This from the “Moving forward” piece perhaps sums the situation up best:

LaMere described the child welfare system as a “minefield” and stressed the problem’s pervasiveness. “Almost all our area families are touched. Hardly a day goes by at Four Directions when someone doesn’t contact us to say they’ve lost parental rights.”

I’m not going to even try to start pulling any further quotes out of the two pieces, just go read them.

The DesMoines Register also had a piece earlier this week, Iowa panel crafts bill addressing American Indian parental rights.

A state commission plans to introduce a bill during the 2011 legislative session that would provide a pathway to restore parental rights to Native American parents who have lost children through Iowa’s child-welfare system.

The proposal comes after a number of native families and advocates again voiced dissatisfaction with the state’s high rate of removal of Indian children during a two-day hearing in September before the Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs.

The state has for years had a severe disproportion of Native American children removed from homes in and near Sioux City, home to the state’s largest Indian population. The issue gained new attention after an article on the commission summit was published last week in Indian Country Today and Wednesday on the Huffington Post website.

The bill being drafted for consideration is modeled after one passed in Illinois.

It would provide a process for parents to regain ties with children after their rights have been terminated, provided “they clean up their act,” said Rachel Scott, spokeswoman for Iowa’s Department of Human Rights. Parents could appeal to have their parental rights restored if children had not already been adopted.

Therein of course, lies the key, if the child has not already been adopted.

Makes one wonder just how quickly First Nations childrens’ adoptions are going to be handled in Iowa from here on in.

As always, the onus is being put on the parents to “clean up their act” rather than the state to explain why it’s circumventing and terminating so many Native families parental rights in the first place.

When a state’s Department of Human Rights is down to chiding Families to “clean up their act” one really has to wonder just whose rights they’re looking after?

We’ll have to wait and see what the legislation looks like when it’s finally presented, but label me skeptical.

Finally, also see this piece, Four Directions Community Center extends its reach, about the Community Center itself and its annual Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children that I mentioned back in my earlier post.

Four Directions’ major annual event is the Memorial March to Honor Our Lost Children, held each year on the day before Thanksgiving. Walkers proceed from South Sioux City, Neb., across a bridge over the Missouri River to Sioux City, Iowa, calling attention to Native children caught in the child-welfare system, including several who died while placed with foster or adoptive families.

Recent events at Four Directions included a two-day meeting of the Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs, a group of gubernatorial appointees that includes Yellowbank. The subject of the first day was child welfare and featured a training session by Indian Child Welfare Act specialist Allison Lasley, Meskwaki, who explained ICWA provisions for commissioners and invited guests, including Iowa human rights director Preston Daniels, a representative of the governor’s office, and members of the Native American Unit of the state’s department of human services.

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