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Published April 24, 2012, 11:34 PM

Hoeven meets with Indian Health Service over children’s safety

FARGO – Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., met Tuesday with the head of the Indian Health Service to discuss concerns involving social services and the safety of children at Spirit Lake Nation.

By: Patrick Springer, Forum Communications Co., INFORUM

FARGO – Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., met Tuesday with the head of the Indian Health Service to discuss concerns involving social services and the safety of children at Spirit Lake Nation.

Dr. Yvette Roubideaux told Hoeven she and officials of the Bureau of Indian Affairs are working with the Spirit Lake Tribal Council to ensure social services are properly managed and to avoid putting children and families at risk.

The meeting follows a “letter of grave concern” sent by Michael Tilus, a clinical psychologist and director of behavioral health at the Spirit Lake Health Center, to a high-ranking BIA official and others.

The letter, reported by The Forum, depicted an ongoing crisis of mismanagement of social services at Spirit Lake, including repeated failure to follow through on reports of suspected child abuse or neglect.

“We want to ensure that the people, and especially the children, of the Spirit Lake Nation are receiving good care,” Hoeven said in a statement. “I urged Dr. Roubideaux to ensure that cases are handled properly and children are being kept safe.”

Hoeven also will meet with officials of the BIA and other federal agencies to ensure “the health and safety of the people of the Spirit Lake Nation,” he said.

Tilus described the dysfunction of social services at Spirit Lake as one of “continual dangerous malpractice,” and called for a complete overhaul of social services, including a new director.

Spirit Lake social services staff members “intentionally misrepresented themselves and lied” when confronted about the lack of legal documents authorizing tribal social services as legal guardians of vulnerable children, Tilus said.

In response to Tilus’ allegations, Roger Yankton, chairman of the tribe, issued a statement saying the tribe was working to address problems, which he said were compounded by budgets that didn’t meet needs and staff turnover.

“We want to talk to the BIA and get the big picture here, and we will certainly look into accountability,” Don Canton, a Hoeven spokesman, said. “We’re going to do everything we can to get this back on track.”


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

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