The Lakota People’s Law Project has released a 35-page report entitled “The New Boarding Schools: Racial Biases in the State of South Dakota Continue to Fuel Constant, Willful Violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act.” “The New Boarding Schools” examines the dynamics which foster consistent corruption in the state of South Dakota when it comes to their relations to the Lakota people. A major thread in our findings was the financial incentives which fuel the fire of institutionalized abuse against Natives.
Figures detailed in our report show just how reliant South Dakota’s economy is on the federal money received to fund their Department of Social Services (DSS). A staggering approximation of $63,000,000 is received annually, determined in proportion to the Department of Social Services’ yearly activity.
Former state governor William Janklow once told NPR reporter Laura Sullivan that this funding is “incredibly important” to South Dakota, going on to say, “I mean look, we’re a poor state…We’re like North Dakota without oil. We’re like Nebraska without Omaha and Lincoln. We don’t have resources…We don’t have high income jobs. We don’t have factories opening here hiring people in high wage jobs.”
The stakes are high for receiving this valuable funding, which explains why South Dakota has historically bent over backwards to run their DSS in a way which maximizes profits. Since Social Security Title IV-E federal grant money is only paid to states when children are actually removed from homes and admitted into the foster system, it is in South Dakota’s best financial interest to do so–even when these seizures are largely unjust.
The inner workings of South Dakota’s DSS reveals more intricate channels by which financing can block justice. Private corporations such as Children’s Home Society of South Dakota (CHSSD) and Lutheran Social Services have strong ties to the system, both providing for and profiting off of DSS.
Major players in South Dakota’s family services system are often involved with both influential corporations and state government; so, in many cases, bending Indian Child Welfare Act guidelines acts as a fiscal benefit to these individuals both personally and professionally.
Our report illustrates this type of predicament in the case of current South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard. From 2003 to 2009, he served as Lieutenant Governor of South Dakota and CEO of CHSSD. Today, he serves as governor and CHSSD paid executive officer. With feet in both camps, Daugaard is certainly no uninvolved onlooker when it comes to social service decision making.
The topic of money in South Dakota is quite complex. Our full report looks at the topic as it fits within the bigger picture of the state’s functioning. The Lakota People’s Law Project encourages you to take a look at “The New Boarding Schools” and let us know what resonates with you.