|A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Native American Children’s Safety Act today.
The bill aims to protect the safety of children in tribal foster care. It requires backgrounds on all adults in a potential foster home.
“The safety of children on or off the reservation must be a priority for all of us,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), who wrote the bill, said in a press release. “Our legislation puts in statute, without ambiguity and with respect to tribal customs and traditions, safeguards for vulnerable young people who through no fault of their own find themselves in need of care and compassion in foster care.”
Co-sponsors include Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. He intends to move quickly on the bill -- it will get a hearing next Wednesday, April 2.
“The federal government has a responsibility to ensure the general welfare of native children in foster care,” Tester said. “This legislation is a necessary step to prevent abuse and its impacts on the long-term development of Indian children.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the vice chair of the committee, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), a member of the committee, are co-sponsoring the measure.
According to Hoeven's office, the bill :
Applies to tribal foster care placement of Native American children for the purpose of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of those children
Requires that all prospective foster care parents and adults living in the home undergo a background check prior to the placement of a Native American foster care child
Requires that background checks include checking for criminal activity as well as checking child abuse and neglect registries
Requires that adults who join the household after the foster care child has been placed there also undergo background checks
Requires that foster care homes undergo recertification periodically, to ensure they remain safe for foster care children
The bill sets out that the Department of Interior will work with Tribes, as well as Indian Country, to establish necessary procedures to ensure that these safety standards for foster care children are established
The bill requires the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which currently does not conduct these background checks in every case when placing Native American foster care children in foster care homes, follow these same requirements when acting on behalf of the Tribes
Hearing to receive testimony on the following bills (April 2, 2014)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules
hearing on five bills (3/24)