Director of Bureau of Indian Affairs, representatives from North Dakota’s elected leaders, and others join Spirit Lake Chairman in new initiative to improve child welfare services.
FORT TOTTEN, NORTH DAKOTA — This past week twenty-six key decision-makers from the Spirit Lake Tribe, federal and state governments, as well as local and national private organizations met to kick off a comprehensive strategy called the “Spirit Lake Child Welfare Improvement Project.” The purpose of this gathering was to convene decision-makers to craft a vision and an initial plan for the improvement of the child welfare system at Spirit Lake.
“No matter what culture, race, or background we come from, children are sacred,” said Spirit Lake Chairman Leander “Russ” McDonald as he opened the convening. “This meeting is critical to bringing together assessment information and available resources to build a strong foundation for addressing child safety.”
Attendees included leadership from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (US Department of Interior), Administration for Children and Families (US Department of Health and Human Services), the state of North Dakota, representatives from elected officials in North Dakota, Casey Family Programs, and the Center for Native American Youth. All are committed to working collaboratively to improve the lives of Native children.
“I am very excited about this group coming together to develop an action plan to address needs within the Spirit Lake Tribe’s child protection services, tribal social services, law enforcement, and judicial services,” said Spirit Lake Chairman Leander “Russ” McDonald.
As a result of the leadership meeting, a plan and timeline was created and implementation teams with representatives from across the participating agencies and organizations. The efforts will include: technical assistance, community engagement, leadership engagement, coordination of emergency services, strategic mapping and planning, and assessments of child welfare, law enforcement, and social services.
“The fact that we had all of these stakeholders here together with the same mission and focused on moving forward for the benefit of the children of Spirit Lake is a positive move toward building a more collaborative, meaningful partnership,” said Michael Black, leader of the Bureau of Indian Affairs who attended the meeting. “As the director of the BIA, I am proud to be a part of it.”
“One meeting will not solve all the issues, so additional sessions over the next several months will refine the vision, add detail,” remarked Anita Fineday, managing director of Casey Family Programs’ Indian Child Welfare Program. Casey Family Programs provided the support to hold the leadership meeting as well as two-days of training with those involved in the hands-on child welfare work at Spirit Lake.
“We are proud to be a part of this collaboration and effort drive new resources to address the needs of the children at Spirit Lake,” said Erin Bailey, executive director of the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute. “Former US Senator Byron Dorgan who created our organization has long worked with the Spirit Lake Tribe.”