Child Welfare Dangers Seen on Spirit Lake Reservation
Federal and state officials say they have documented glaring flaws in the child welfare system at the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation in North Dakota, contending that while child abuse there is at epidemic levels, the tribe has sought to conceal it.
The problems uncovered by medical and social services administrators include foster children on the reservation who have been sent to homes where registered sex offenders live and a teenage female sexual-abuse victim who was placed in a tribal home and subsequently raped.
The tribe, according to federal officials, also hired a children’s case worker who had been convicted of felony child abuse and employed another social worker who discovered a 1-year-old child covered with 100 wood ticks but did not take the child to a hospital.
The conditions led the State of North Dakota to take the unusual step this year of suspending financing for 31 tribal children in foster care.
Concerns about the children of Spirit Lake, which is in a remote area of northeastern North Dakota, extend to minors outside the social services system as well. In May 2011, a 9-year-old girl and her 6-year-old brother were found dead, raped and sodomized, inside their father’s home on the reservation, a federal official said. By the time their bodies were discovered beneath a mattress, the children may have been dead for as long as three days.