Hoeven, Cramer: President Signs Native American Children's Safety Act Into Law
Measure Requires Background Checks on Adults in Tribal Foster Homes
WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven and Congressman Kevin Cramer today announced that President Barack Obama has signed into law S. 184, the Native American Children’s Safety Act, which Hoeven authored and introduced in the Senate. Congressman Cramer then led the effort to get the measure passed in the House. The legislation implements protections for Native American children placed by tribal courts into the tribal foster care system.
“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,” Hoeven said. “Starting today, it’s the law of the land.
“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 Cramer. “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.”
Prior to today, there was no consistent requirement that Native American tribes conduct background checks on everyone living in a foster care house, yet there has been abuse and harm committed by adults living in the same foster care home as the children.
The Native American Children’s Safety Act requires background checks to be conducted on all adults living in a potential foster home before a tribal court may place a child in that home. The check will include a national criminal records check and a review of child abuse or neglect registries in any state in which the individual under review has lived in the preceding five years.
A background check will also be required of any adult who moves into the home after placement. To ensure the ongoing safety of children placed in foster care, a certified home will periodically be subject to another round of checks before it could be recertified. Tribes also have the flexibility to require additional checks if they want.
Highlights of the Native American Children’s Safety Act:
• Requires that all prospective foster care parents and adults living in the home undergo a background check prior to the placement of a Native American foster care child
• Requires that background checks include checking for criminal activity as well as state and tribal child abuse and neglect registries
• Requires that adults who join the household after the foster care child has been placed there also undergo background checks
• Requires that foster care homes undergo recertification periodically to ensure they remain safe for foster care children
• Allows a tribe the flexibility for additional requirements that it determines necessary within its existing authority
• The bill specifies that the Department of Interior will work with Tribes to establish necessary procedures to ensure the safety of foster care children
• The bill requires the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which currently does not conduct these background checks in every case when placing Native American children in foster homes, to follow these same requirements when acting on behalf of the Tribes
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