WDAY.com |

North Dakota's #1 news website 10,650,498 page views — March 2014

Published April 14, 2012, 11:30 PM

‘A lot of Shannons out there’

Fargo family had foster child from Spirit Lake taken back to reservation after only several weeks
FARGO – She came into their lives one day after her first birthday and in fragile health. Three months later, the child was abruptly taken away. Shannon and Tim Laney have four kids but decided they wanted to have a foster child.

By: Patrick Springer, INFORUM

FARGO – She came into their lives one day after her first birthday and in fragile health.

Three months later, the child was abruptly taken away.

Shannon and Tim Laney have four kids but decided they wanted to have a foster child.

They were selected to care for a little girl from the Spirit Lake Nation in northeast North Dakota.

“She had untreated asthma,” Shannon says. “She was a real sick little girl. Real sick.”

So sick, in fact, that a doctor said he would have been reluctant to allow the girl to go home, but decided it was OK because Shannon is a nurse.

On her mother’s side, she also has Ojibwe and Dakota ancestry, as well as ties to Spirit Lake Nation. So she seemed like the perfect foster mother for the girl.

Betty Jo Krenz, who worked as a foster child case manager for Spirit Lake Tribe, says the girl thrived during the time she spent with the Laneys.

“I felt very, very comfortable and I was very, very relieved that she had decided to take the child,” Krenz says. “Shannon was happy to do it.”

Then one evening Shannon got an email that would abruptly alter her family’s life.

An official from Spirit Lake Tribe’s social services informed the Laneys that someone would come for the foster child the next morning.

“The email just said we’re coming to get her,” she says.

The knock at the door came the next morning, June 21, 2011. A woman working for the tribe announced that she was taking the foster girl back.

The girl, who had come to regard the Laneys as her parents, screamed, Shannon says.

“She was scared to death,” she adds. “We were all crying. It was horrible.”

Later, she spoke to the girl’s father. He hadn’t been expecting to get the child back. A single parent in his 30s, he was battling drug and alcohol addiction, Shannon says.

Later, he called the Laneys and wanted his daughter to return to their north Fargo home.

“He said that he had fallen off the wagon and wanted help,” Shannon says.

She was ready to drive to the reservation to pick her up when he called back. “Then he changed his mind, I guess.”

It was the last the Laneys have heard of the girl. She still gets notices from health providers, however, informing her that the girl has missed treatments, including surgery to help her breathe better.

In just a few short weeks with the Laneys, the girl’s health improved noticeably, Krenz says.

Krenz was fired just days before the girl was taken, over differences she had with the tribe’s social services managers.

“There were a lot of Shannons out there,” she says. Krenz knows of at least five or six other families whose foster children were abruptly returned to the reservation.

Spirit Lake Tribe officials have declined to discuss alleged problems with its social services programs, but the tribal chairman issued a statement.

Chairman Roger Yankton said the safety of children is a priority for the tribe, which is battling “severe funding and personnel deficiencies.”

Shannon says she knows several other foster parents, including an aunt, who have had Spirit Lake foster children plucked from them and returned to dangerous homes – one to a mother who had tried to burn her house down with two of her children inside.

She keeps memories of the little girl. “It’s so heart-wrenching for me,” she says.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

Tags: