Indian children. Photo from Lakota
People's Law Project
President Barack Obama signed S.184, the Native American Children's Safety Act, into law on Friday.
The bill requires background checks of all adults in a tribal foster home. The checks must be completed before a child is placed in the home.
"A decade ago, we worked in North Dakota to ensure that all adults living in a foster home were background checked to protect the children in their care, and now we have extended that same safety net for children in tribal foster care in North Dakota and across the nation,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-North
Dakota), who introduced S.184 in January 2015, said in a press release. “Starting today, it’s the law of the land."
The Senate passed S.184 a year ago, on June 1, 2015. A companion version, H.R.1168,
cleared the House that same day
in a rare act of unity on Capitol Hill.
But both chambers did not technically approve the same measure. So the
House took action and passed S.184 by a voice vote on May 23.
“Native American children are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to be victims of abuse or neglect than other American children,” said
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-North
Dakota), the sponsor of H.R.1168. “And, children exposed to violence are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, suffer from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic disorders. The standards in this bill mirror existing national requirements for non-tribal foster care placements, ensuring tribal children receive care at least equal to the protections afforded non-tribal children.”
According to Hoeven's
office, the background checks must be undertaken by tribal social service
agencies or the Bureau of Indian
Affairs in those situations where the BIA acts on behalf of tribes.
The BIA has already started to help tribes with background checks in
response to concerns raised by tribes and members of Congress. A
series of deaths and abuse cases on the Spirit Lake Nation in
North Dakota were linked to homes where adults with criminal records were present.
American Children's Safety Act clears last hurdle on Capitol Hill (05/24)
to help tribes with background checks for child placements (08/20)
youth face enormous economic and health obstacles (07/21)
Barrasso welcomes passage of bills to help Native children (06/02)
American Children's Safety Act clears House and Senate (06/01)
committee passes Native American Children's Safety Act (03/27)
Native American Children's Safety Act introduced in Senate (03/27)