PREPARED STATEMENT OF DANIEL J. EVANS, U.S. SENATOR FROM WASHINGTON, VICE CHAIRMAN, SELECT COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS


THANK YOU, MR. CHAIRMAN. WE ARE HERE TODAY TO DISCUSS A VERY IMPORTANT BILL WHICH SERVES TO AMEND, THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT. THIS LAW WAS ENACTED IN 1978 AND SERVES TO PROTECT ONE OF THE HOST VITAL RESOURCES IN INDIAN COUNTRY: THE CHILDREN.

CONGRESS PASSED THIS LAW IN RESPONSE TO THE ALARMINGLY HIGH PERCENTAGE OF INDIAN CHILDREN WHO WERE SEPARATED FROM THEIR FAMILIES AND TRIBAL HERITAGE BY THE INTERFERENCE, OFTEN UNWARRANTED, OF NON-TRIBAL PUBLIC AND PRIVATE AGENCIES. WITH REGULARITY THESE CHILDREN WERE PLACED IN NON-INDIAN FOSTER AND ADOPTIVE HOMES AND INSTITUTIONS. THE WHOLESALE REMOVAL OF NEARLY 25 TO 35 PERCENT OF ALL INDIAN CHILDREN FROM THEIR FAMILIES AND HERITAGE OCCURRED PRIOR TO ENACTMENT OF THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT.

TODAY THAT DRAMATIC RATE HAS DECLINED, HOWEVER, A RECENTLY RELEASED STUDY COMMISSIONED BY THE ADMINISTRATION ON CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES AND THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS REVEALS THAT INDIAN CHILDREN MAKE UP 0.9 PERCENT OF THE TOTAL CHILD POPULATION BUT REPRESENT 3.1 PERCENT OF THE TOTAL SUBSTITUTE CARE POPULATION. INDIAN CHILDREN ARE PLACED IN SUBSTITUTE CARE AT A RATE THAT IS 3.6 TIMES GREATER THAN THE RATE FOR NON-INDIAN CHILDREN. (THERE WERE 18 STATES WHO REPORTED EVEN A HIGHER RATE EXCEEDING THIS RATIO, INCLUDING: ALASKA (5.1:1); ARIZONA (3.9:1); MONTANA (8.6:1); NORTH DAKOTA (21.7:1); SOUTH DAKOTA (25.2:1); AND WASHINGTON (4.0:1).)

THE NUMBER OF INDIAN CHILDREN IN SOME TYPE OF SUBSTITUTE CARE HAS INCREASED FROM 7,200 IN THE EARLY 1980'S TO 9,005 IN 1986. THE FINDINGS OF THIS NATIONAL STUDY INDICATE THAT MANY MORE INDIAN CHILDREN ENTERED RATHER THAN LEFT CARE IN 1986, WITH PROJECTIONS THAT THIS NUMBER WILL RISE EVEN FURTHER.

MR. CHAIRMAN AND DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, IT IS THE POLICY OF THIS NATION TO PROTECT THE BEST INTERESTS OF INDIAN CHILDREN AND TO PROMOTE THE STABILITY AND SECURITY OF INDIAN TRIBES AND FAMILIES. THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT HAS ATTEMPTED TO ADVANCE THIS POLICY THROUGH THE ESTABLISHMENT OF MINIMUM FEDERAL STANDARDS FOR THE REMOVAL OF INDIAN CHILDREN FROM THEIR FAMILIES AND BY REQUIRING THE PLACEMENT OF SUCH CHILDREN IN FOSTER OR ADOPTIVE HOMES WHICH ARE REFLECTIVE OF THE UNIQUE VALUES OF INDIAN CULTURE. THE NATIONAL STUDY, WHICH I HAVE HIGHLIGHTED, REVEALS THAT PREVENTIVE EFFORTS TO AVOID THE REMOVAL OF THE CHILD HAS OCCURRED IN ONLY 43 PERCENT OF THE CASES REVIEWED. MANY OTHER SHORTCOMINGS, AS WELL AS EXCELLENT RECOMMENDATIONS, RELATED TO PROPER IMPLEMENTATION OF THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT WERE IDENTIFIED IN THIS REPORT AND HAVE BEEN EXPANDED UPON IN PREVIOUS OVERSIGHT HEARINGS.

S. 1976, IS A SYNTHESIS OF THOSE RECOMMENDATIONS AND IS DESIGNED TO RESPOND TO THE CONCERNS EXPRESSED BY INDIAN TRIBES. CHILD WELFARE PROGRAMS AND COURT SYSTEMS. THESE AMENDMENTS, HOWEVER, ARE ONLY A FIRST STEP TOWARDS RECTIFYING THE PROBLEMS EXPERIENCED BY THE LIMITATIONS OF THE CURRENT ACT. AS WE APPROACH SOLUTIONS TO THESE PROBLEMS WE RECOGNIZE THAT THE TRIBES, THE STATES AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MUST WORK TOGETHER TO INCREASE SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING THE LANDMARK GOALS OF THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT.

OUR PURPOSE HERE TODAY IS TO EXPLORE WAYS TO IMPROVE THE TRUE INTENT OF THIS ACT: THAT OF PROTECTING THE BEST INTEREST OF THE INDIAN CHILD. I LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR COMMENTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.



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