Thursday, March 02, 2006

How do I retain my parental rights if I am an inmate in jail or prison?

First and foremost, retain an attorney to assist you. Second, even though you are in prison or jail, you MUST do the following, if you want to try to retain your parental rights:

1. Provide monetary support for your child(ren). This shows you are providing or trying to provide for their upkeep and care.

2. Maintain regular contact with your child(ren). This contact consists of visitation (them coming to see you), weekly telephone calls, letters, cards, etc.

3. An attorney must appear to represent you in court at all hearings. The attorney can provide the court with your affidavits (your written statements to the court) and ensure the court knows you are interested in retaining your legal parental rights.

Doing these things establishes you are still providing the emotional support, affection, and guidance of a caring parent.

What is Termination of Parental Rights?

Termination of parental rights occurs after the court determines one or both parents has either neglected or abandoned the child(ren) social services has in their legal custody. Termination of rights occurs because parent(s) have failed to provide for their child(ren), neglected their child(ren), or have shown a disregard for the general welfare of their child(ren). This termination hearing will take place because Federal Law states that Child Protective Services must file a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights when a child has been in substitute care for 15 out of 22 months. This is to encourage the parent to deal with the issue in a timely manner and to allow the child to have a permanet home. In regards to a parent who may be incarcerated over 15 months, they should seek a Guardianship for the children with someone they trust. There can be an ending date on the Guardianship to coincide with the parents release or a few months after their release date. Otherwise, the parent (s) have up to one year's opportunity to complete their case plan(s) and get custody returned. If a parent(s) has not retained an attorney before this hearing, it is recommended they do so immediately.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What is the Indian Child Welfare Act?

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a federal law which regulates placement proceedings involving Indian children. If your child is a member of a tribe or eligible for membership in a tribe, your family has the right to protection under the ICWA. These rights apply to any child protective case, adoption, guardianships, termination of parental rights action, runaway/truancy matter, or voluntary placement of your children.

What agencies can help me when my child(ren) get taken away?

The following agencies can assist you either in court, legally, or with understanding the court system:

Dakota Legal Services
Tribal Indian Child Welfare Act Agencies
Ask the court for a court-appointed attorney

How long does my family have to cooperate with the court system?

As long as the court system has custody of your child(ren), you must cooperate and complete your case plan in order to get custody returned. You may complete your case plan and get PHYSICAL custody of your child returned, but Department of Social Services may retain legal custody of your child for another 3-6 months or more, in order to encourage a parent's ability to maintain a safe lifestyle for the child(ren).

What is a Permanancy Planning Meeting?

This is a meeting set up by the social services worker in regard to you and your child(ren"s) case. These meetings are set up when your case has been in the system for a significant period of time, and when there are many agencies involved. The meeting helps all workers involved to organize and coordinate their services to the parent(s) and to the parent(s) advantage. During the meeting any one of these agencies may be in attendance: CASA worker (Court Appointed Special Advocate), Department of Social Services caseworker, Mental Health counselor, Assistant Principal or designated School representative, Disabilities worker, tribal child advocate, etc. You will be invited as well and have the ability to voice your concerns.

What is a case plan?

A case plan is the agreement you and the social worker create and complete, in order to get custody of your children returned. A case plan may have a few to several tasks that you must complete. Examples are: attend domestic violence class, attend parenting class, have no trouble with the law, etc. Case plans are created to address the problems that got your children taken away.

How soon will I get to see my child(ren)?

The court or social service worker can allow visitation with your child to occur 1-2 times per week or more often, depending on the schedule of the social worker. These visits may or may not be supervised, according to court order by the judge, and may occur at the social services office under supervision, or may happen unsupervised and out of the social service office. You may be given a time allotment when you can take the child(ren) and from where, and where you need to return the child(ren). It will be up to the court judge as to how long this kind of visitation can take place before getting custody returned to you.

What happens when they take my child(ren) away?

Usually it is the law enforcement that makes the decision to remove a child from their parent or living situation. The law enforcement officer will call a social services worker to come and take custody of the child(ren) and place the child(ren) in a temporary foster care home. The parent is given a copy of a court hearing date and time to appear before juvenile court and a juvenile judge.

Which tribal agencies can help me?

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Directors and Tribal Court Directory

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe
ICWA Director: Diane Garreau
Address: PO Box 747, Eagle Butte, SD 57625
Phone: (605) 964-6460Fax: (605) 964-6463

Juvenile Court Judge: Karen Jeffries
Address: PO Box 590, Eagle Butte, SD 57625
Phone: (605) 964-2996Fax: (605) 964-2998

Crow Creek Sioux Tribe
BIA/ Crow Creek Agency ICWA Specialist: David Valandra
Address: PO Box 139, Ft. Thompson, SD 57339-0139
Phone: (605) 245-2322Fax: (605) 245-2844

Juvenile Court Judge: Paul Mueller
Address: PO Box 247, Ft. Thompson, SD 57339
Phone: (605) 245-2325Fax: (605) 245-2401

Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe
ICWA Director: Guy Zephier
Address: PO Box 283, Flandreau, SD 57028
Phone: (605) 997-5055Fax: (605) 997-5426

Juvenile Court Judge: Sherman Marshall
Address: PO Box 283, Flandreau, SD 57028
Phone: (605) 997-3593Fax: (605) 997-5145

Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
ICWA Director: Rose McCauley
Address: PO Box 122, Lower Brule, SD 57548
Phone: (605) 473-5528Fax: (605) 473-0619

Tribal Court Services: Paul Mueller
Address: PO Box 122, Lower Brule, SD 57548
Phone: (605) 473-5528Fax: (605) 473-0619

Juvenile Court Judge: Shirley Flute
Address: PO Box 122, Lower Brule, SD 57548
Phone: (605) 473-5528Fax: (605) 473-0619

Oglala Sioux Tribe ONTRAC
ICWA Director: Bernadine Tallman
Address: PO Box 2080, Pine Ridge, SD 57770
Phone: (605) 867-5805Fax: (605) 867-1893

Juvenile Court Judge: Jane Colhoff
Address: PO Box 280, Pine Ridge, SD 57770
Phone: (605) 867-5151Fax: (605) 867-1549

Associate Judge: Lisa Cook
Address: PO Box 159, Kyle, SD 57752
Phone: (605) 455-2316

Rosebud Sioux Tribe
ICWA Director: Shirley Big Eagle
Address: PO Box 609, Mission, SD 57555
Phone: (605) 856-5270Fax: (605) 856-5268

Juvenile Court Judge: Janel Sully
Address: PO Box 129, Rosebud, SD 57570
Phone: (605) 747-2278Fax: (605) 747-2832

Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate
ICWA Director: Ken Harty
Address: PO Box 509, Agency Village, SD 57262
Phone: (605) 698-3992

Juvenile Court Judge: B.J. Jones
Address: PO Box 568, Agency Village, SD 57262
Phone: (605) 698-7629Fax: (605) 698-4135

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
ICWA Director: Beverly Iron Shield
Address: PO Box 640, Ft. Yates, ND 58538
Phone: (701) 854-3431Fax: (701) 854-5575

Juvenile Court Judge: Lola Agard
Address: Ft. Yates, ND 58538
Phone: (701) 854-3746Fax: (701) 856-3959

Yankton Sioux Tribe
ICWA Director: Ray Cournoyer
Address: PO Box 512, Marty, SD 57361
Phone: (605) 384-3641Fax: (605) 491-0055

Juvenile Court Judge: Leroy Greaves
Address: PO Box 980, Wagner, SD 57380
Phone: (605) 384-5578Fax: (605) 384-5892

Who decides if I am a member of a tribe?

The law does not apply a specific blood quantum as the criteria for membership. It leaves it up to each Native American tribe to make such determinations on their own.

Which tribes does this law apply to?

The law applies to all tribal nations. The Indian Child Welfare Act defines an Indian tribe as any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community of Indians recognized as eligible for the services provided to Indians by the Secretary [of the Interior] because of their status as Indians. In our area that would be all the Sioux tribes, and all the tribes in North Dakota and South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota. Those tribes are: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Flandreau-Santee Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe. Other tribes in our area are the Santee Sioux Tribe, Winnebago Tribe, Three Affiliated - Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Tribe, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Spirit Lake, Omaha Tribe, Ponca Tribe.

What if a parent allowed someone else to become a guardian of their child and later changes their mind?

The ICWA provides that an Indian parent always has the right to revoke a guardianship.

Does the Act apply to a couple getting a divorce?


What if a child is not living on the reservation; does ICWA still apply?

Yes. The ICWA has a notice requirement. This means that if a state takes a child into custody, it must give notice to the child's tribe, wherever the child may be in the U.S.

What does the law do?

The ICWA requires that placement cases involving Indian children be heard in tribal courts if possible, and permits a child's tribe to be involved in state court proceedings. It requires testimony from expert witnesses who are familiar with Indian culture before a child can be removed from his/her home. If a child is removed, either for foster care or adoption, the law requires that Indian children be placed with extended family members, other tribal members, or other Indian families.

Who does it apply to?

The law applies to Native American children who are unmarried and under age eighteen. The child must be either a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe or must be eligible for membership in a federally recognized Indian tribe.

Why was this law passed?

Before the ICWA was passed, a very high percentage of Indian families were broken up because non-tribal agencies removed children from their homes. One reason for the high removal rate was because state officials did not understand or accept Indian culture. Today, the ICWA sets minimum standards for the removal of Indian children from their homes.

When was this law passed?

The ICWA was created in 1978 by the federal government in order to re-establish tribal authority over the adoption of Native American children. The goal of the act when it passed in 1978 was to strengthen and preserve Native American families and culture.