Agreement for child welfare signed between state, tribes | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Agreement for child welfare signed between state, tribes

Sep 7, 2019

North Dakota Indian Affairs Executive Director Scott Davis (center), and state and tribal officials, attend child welfare agreement signing ceremony at the state Capitol.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

North Dakota’s four Native American tribal nations and the state Department of Human Services have signed updated comprehensive agreements for enhanced child welfare services for Native American children and families.

The agreements were signed at the state Capitol in Bismarck Friday. They update agreements signed in 1983.

Dean Sturn is the foster care administrator for the Department of Human Services. Sturn said one thing the new agreement does is expand the ability of the tribes to license Native foster homes, not only on tribal lands but off of tribal lands.

"Hopefully, that will bear fruit, and produce more Native foster homes to serve anyone, but hopefully more Native kids," Sturn said.

Sturn saids the new agreement offers subsidized guardianship for Native youth, and it expands subsidized adoption for Native youth. He said it also allows Native youth to enroll in the “18-plus” program, which allows foster children over the age of 18 to stay in foster care voluntarily, because they aren’t ready to be on their own. Sturn said Native youth are now eligible for certain independent living grants, and grants to help them enroll in higher education.

"The bottom line is -- the well-being and health of all families in North Dakota," Sturn said. "We are going to cross boundaries, because these are separate tribal nations, and we are going to work together to enhance what we have been doing, and increase what we are doing."

Sturn said he's especially excited that a working group made up of the Department of Human Services and tribal leaders will continue to address child welfare issues.