John Ford, Rugby
I have been following the saga of child welfare on the Spirit Lake reservation with a sad interest. Unfortunately, the incidents at the reservation are not isolated incidents in our state but are issues that afflict our under privileged children state wide in the foster care system. This has been going on for quite some time under the leadership of Carol Olson at DHS. Foster children are routinely "dumped' on the streets at 18, or returned to deprived and dangerous homes at the ages of 15, 16 and 17.
Having had a keen interest in foster care and child protection services for over 8 years now in our state, I have personally, as well as our coalition brought these kinds of conditions and concerns to the attention of Carol Olson, Tara Muhlhauser, and even John Hoeven when he was governor. We presented endless testimony over two legislative cycles to the Human Services Subcommittees of both the Senate and House which had no influence on our Republican leaders. Our current Lt. Governor, Drew Wrigley, while he was US Attorney for ND turned a deaf ear to the complaints of children being endangered while in foster care and shoddy investigations of complaints of child abuse and endangerment of child in foster care. In one instance, DHS was presented with a teenager foster girls confession that she traded sex for drugs and alcohol with 30 something men, all with her foster mother's knowledge, and that woman retained her foster care license. Allowing agencies like DHS to conduct investigations into their own departments is clearly insane.
Well, now children are dying because of the neglect of not only the DHS administration, but of the politicians who only cared about protecting their political cronies and keeping the high paying jobs for unqualified people like Carol Olsen intact. Hopefully DHHS will now take a serious look at DHS not only regarding the Spirit Lake troubles but all the deficiencies that take place with the Child Protection Services and foster care programs under the supervision of DHS.
(Ford is Executive Director of the North Dakota Coalition for CPS and Foster Care Reform)