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John Ford, Published September 02 2012

Letter: Human services, politicians share blame for Spirit Lake

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 underprivileged children statewide in the foster care system. This has been going on for quite some time under the leadership of Carol Olson at the Department of Human Services. 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 more than eight years, I personally, as well as our coalition, have brought these kinds of conditions and concerns to the attention of Olson, director of Children and Family Services 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.

Current Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, while he was U.S. attorney for North Dakota, 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 children in foster care.

In one instance, DHS was presented with a teen foster girl’s 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 Olson intact.

Hopefully DHS 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, Rugby, N.D., is executive director, North Dakota Coalition for CPS

and Foster Care Reform.