Column: Protect Indian children in foster care system
"According to a report by the National Indian Child Welfare Association and Kids Are Waiting, Washington has one of the nation's highest rates of American Indian foster children. While they make up only 2 percent of Washington's child population, American Indians represent 8.4 percent of children in foster care.

I was one of those American Indian children. I lived in foster care off and on for my entire childhood. I lived in 30 placements in eight different states. I attended dozens of different schools and was separated from my brothers and sisters. As a result, I have very few memories of them. I don't know their birthdays or even their middle names.

As a little girl, I never participated in Girl Scouts, marching band or a school play. I had no opportunity to learn about my Native American heritage. Because I moved so many times, and because I don't "look like an Indian," my cultural heritage and identity were effectively deleted from my file. Being in foster care system is all about your file; if it's not in there, it's not part of your life.

The nonpartisan Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care recognized the unique ability tribal governments have to develop effective solutions for Native American children affected by child abuse and neglect and the need for more direct funding to support tribal child welfare efforts.

But current federal law excludes tribes from receiving direct federal funding. As a result, tribes' struggle to provide services to children and youth in foster, adoptive and guardianship placements are hampered, and vulnerable Native American children suffer as a result. "

Get the Story:
Misty Stenslie: Foster care should respect heritage (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 5/14)