Hoeven Reintroduces Native American Children's Safety Act

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today reintroduced the Native American Children’s Safety Act, legislation to implement protections for Native American children placed by tribal courts into the tribal foster care system. The senator first introduced the legislation last Congress and garnered support to pass it through the Indian Affairs Committee. The committee is expected to vote on the bill in February, and Hoeven is working in the new Congress to pass the legislation through the full Senate. 

“The Native American Children’s Safety Act requires background checks for all adults living in a foster care home, like we have for non-tribal foster homes in North Dakota,” said Hoeven. “This legislation will help ensure that all children, whether on or off a reservation, are protected.”

Hoeven worked on the legislation with tribes, the National Indian Child Welfare Association, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Administration for Children and Families. The legislation is cosponsored by Indian Affairs Committee Vice Chairman Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

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 would 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 would 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 would be periodically subject to another round of checks before it could be recertified. Tribes also have the flexibility to require additional checks if they want.

Currently, there is no requirement that Native American tribes conduct background checks on everyone living in the foster care house.

Highlights of the Native American Children’s Safety Act

  • The bill applies to tribal foster care placement of Native American children for the purpose of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of those children 
  • 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 flexibility for additional requirements that they determine necessary within its existing authority
  • The bill sets out 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 foster care children in foster care homes, follow these same requirements when acting on behalf of the tribes