Indian Child Welfare Act

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Hear from both sides regarding a lawsuit filed by the Goldwater Institute challenging parts of the Indian Child Welfare Act that requires American Indian children be placed in American Indian foster and adoptive homes. Clint Bolick, Goldwater’s vice president of litigation, will discuss his organization’s lawsuit along with April Olson of the Rothstein Law Firm in Tempe.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," a new legal battle brewing in Arizona with national implications. We'll get details on a class action lawsuit involving the best interests of Native American children involving foster care and adoption. And we'll dive into the world of nonprofit employment, next on "Arizona Horizon."

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Christina Estes in for Ted Simons. After a recent riot and disturbances at the privately run state prison in Kingman, Governor Doug Ducey has asked for an investigation. In a letter sent to state prisons Director Charles Ryan, the governor said, "It is critical that we understand how these incidents occurred and how we prevent them in the future." The Governor also said the public needs assurances prisons, if state run or privately run, are under control. The latest figures from the border patrol show the number of unaccompanied children from Central America has fallen significantly from the record surge last year. The border patrol stopped nearly 27,000 unaccompanied children from Central America from October through June. That's 30,000 fewer than the same time period the year before. The first case of the West Nile virus has been reported this year in Maricopa County. Health officials say a man in his 50s displayed flulike symptoms but was not hospitalized. West Nile is spread by mosquitoes. Last year we had 93 cases in Maricopa County. Also making headlines today, the Goldwater Institute announced a federal lawsuit, challenging parts of the Indian Child Welfare Act, claiming it puts tribal interests ahead of children when it comes to foster care and adoption. Here to discuss the issue is Clint Bolick, Goldwater's Vice President of litigation and April Olson of the Rothstein Law Firm in Tempe. A lot of her legal experience involves Indian Child Welfare Act cases and thanks to both of you for being here. We will start with April. We're going to get a little history first before we get to your lawsuit. The Indian Child Welfare Act, Congress passed this back in 1978. Why?

APRIL OLSON: The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed in 1978 after years of Senate oversight committee hearings where testimony was given, numerous examples were given and statistical data was provided that showed that Indian children were removed from their homes at an alarmingly high rate and placed in non-Indian placements and foster homes. Some of the information provided at the oversight committee hearings were statistics like 25 to 35% of Indian children were removed from their homes and were placed in non-Indian homes 90% of the time. Indian children were adopted at a rate that was eight times higher than non-Indian children, and oftentimes Indian children were removed from their homes with their parents not having the benefit of counsel. The result of this is that Indian children and adolescents were having adjustment problems and having issues with being raised in homes that were not Indian. In addition, tribes suffered because as a result of losing their children they were not able to pass on tribal culture and tribal heritage. So the ICWA was passed and set minimum standards for the removal of Indian children from homes, and these are for states to follow.

CHRISTINA ESTES: So it's been since 1978. Here we are today, you've filed a new lawsuit. What does the Goldwater Institute have against the Act?

CLINT BOLICK: Well, fortunately a lot has changed in 37 years. What the law has become is a straitjacket for children with Indian blood. When I say with Indian blood, in some instances kids with as little as 1% or 2% Indian blood are made subject to this Act. All children in the United States, when they are being removed from an abusive home, or placed for foster care, their parent's rights are terminated, their best interests are the primary determining factor in what happens to them, except for Indian children. Under the Indian Child Welfare Act a child's best interests is not even part of the consideration. And as a result many of these kids languish in foster care, many of them are placed in abusive homes, some of them lose their lives. And so we're challenging the constitutionality of a law that really has become a separate but unequal law, that makes Indian children second class citizens.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Is that how you see it, April? Does the Act put the tribe's interests ahead of the children's?

APRIL OLSON: I would disagree with that. I don't believe the Act puts the tribe's interests ahead of the children's interests. What the act does It recognizes that Indian children and parents and tribes have an interest in maintaining that connection to tribal culture. In fact, I think the act protects Indian children's interests even more, and maintaining that connection to the tribe is just one element of the best interests analysis. I would disagree.

CHRISTINA ESTES: The law was just filed today and you haven't been able to get into the nitty gritty of it. You mentioned two cases here in Arizona as part of that lawsuit. And therefore in both cases prospective adoptive parents are facing some hurdles in their view. In both of those cases it looks like the rights of the birth parents have been terminated and the tribes are getting involved. The adoptive parents are saying, hey, we need some help here, we've raised these children and we want them in our home permanently. Is that a typical case, or are these --

CLINT BOLICK: It's very typical. Basically where children are in foster care and the parental rights have been terminated, in the case of one of our families they have had this little boy for four years, they've raised him from infancy, and they cannot begin adoption proceedings until every possible adoption placement on the reservation has been considered, even with families that have no connection to the child at all. And this child has no connection to the reservation whatsoever. As a result this little boy can't call them Mommy and Daddy. Every few months he's placed in a situation where he's meeting with strangers who may or may not adopt him. This is no other child, other than a child with Indian blood. This child has less than half Indian blood. No other child in America would be forced to languish in foster care and not have a loving permanent family.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Is that a typical case, April? You've represented these cases in 10 states. What's been your experience?

APRIL OLSON: Certainly I would disagree. I think the example provided in the complaint of the child being in foster care for four years, that hasn't been my experience at all. And in addition, I think the complaint and the press conference this morning made several factual assertions. They say in many instances this occurs, in many instances this occurs; and I don't think that's been my experience. My experience has been that ICWA has worked very well for tribes and I would disagree and point out that the factual assertions in the complaint are not supported at all by my experience.

CLINT BOLICK: The complaint is accompanied by an investigative report by our investigative journalist Mark Flatt and it is extremely well documented. Part of it focuses on a recent situation where a young girl named Lauren White Shield was taken out of her foster home in North Dakota and placed with her grandfather, who was married to a woman who repeatedly had abused her own children. Within a few days Lauren was dead. Now the woman is behind bars. But they knew the record of abuse. But because she was a tribal resident, and the adoptive family was not, Lauren lost her life. This is unfortunately not atypical at all.

CHRISTINA ESTES: And unfortunately, it's not just this child that we've seen and tragically in foster care or being returned to families. I wonder, April, if you can address why you feel like children from Indian ancestry deserve a different sort of route, a different expectation before they are adopted outside of the tribe.

APRIL OLSON: Well, first, to address the situation that he pointed out, I think that's the exception, not the rule, at least in my experience. One of the things that was pointed out at the press conference this morning, one thing that was said was that children are routinely placed in the homes of violent sex offenders. I think that's something that's absolutely not true. One thing that's been brought out by the Goldwater Institute is that the House and the Senate passed the Native American Child Protection Act that for the first time, they said, required prospective and adoptive parents to get background checks. It's not the first time that's been happening. All of the tribes that I've worked with over the years have consistently gotten background checks for their perspective foster care and adoptive families. I think that example that was provided, at least in my experience, in the years that I've done ICWA, and in numerous states and numerous tribes, that's really the exception, not the rule.

CHRISTINA ESTES: What do you think works really well with the Act as currently written?

APRIL OLSON: I think it works really well when tribes and states work together to enforce the provisions of the Act. One thing the complaint brings up, they allege that Indian status is a racial identity and therefore it is an improper characterization, but it's longstanding jurisprudence that tribal membership or tribal citizenship is not just based on race, it's based on a political status. You can be traditionally Indian and be a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe. Under ICWA, ICWA only applies to Indian children which are defined as members or those who are eligible for membership in a federally recognized Indian tribe.

CHRISTINA ESTES: We started with April, let me end with Clint, you're lawsuit is accompanied by proposals that you say would reform the Act. What would you like to see happen?

CLINT BULICK: We'd like to see the rules that apply to all other children would apply to Indian children, as well. That the best interests of the children would be the primary factor, that children can be removed from abusive homes, not by essentially proving that the people who have them are guilty of a crime, but because it's recognized that there's a serious danger to those kids. These are the rights that Indian children shed, and it's the tribe that determines who is eligible for membership, not any sort of objective criterion. That's why you see really absurd situations where children with only a tiny percentage of Indian blood, who have never set foot on a reservation, made subject to the laws of the tribe and shedding their constitutional rights as American citizens.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Fascinating subject and we greatly appreciate both of you coming in. Clint Bolick, April Olson, thanks very much.

CLINT BULICK: Thanks very much:

APRIL OLSON: Thank you.

CHRISTINA ESTES: In tonight's "Giving and Leading" segment we're talking jobs in the nonprofit sector. Nearly one in ten employees in Arizona works for a nonprofit. They also offer employment and training opportunities for many people with special needs. We'll hear more from two experts but first, producer Shana Fischer and photographer Scot Olson tell us about how one woman's nonprofit that's changing lives.

VIDEO: It's a busy Thursday morning at the Shine Project.

ASHLEY LEMIEUX: It's more dollars for scholarships.

VIDEO: Ashley LeMieux and her student employees are brainstorming ideas to grow the nonprofit.

ASHLEY LEMIEUX: I started the Shine Project about three, four years ago when I was interning at an inner city school in Phoenix. At that time I was kind of trying to figure out what I wanted to do in my own life when I graduated college that semester. So I started a blog and I named it the Shine Project, because I wanted to have a really good year for myself and the word I chose to help motivate me was shine.

VIDEO: Ashley's blog grew in popularity, so she decided to harness the collective power of her followers to help the kids she was tutoring.

ASHLEY LEMIEUX: A lot of them that I met felt there were so many obstacles in their way and they really didn't have anyone fighting for them.

VIDEO: Her followers donated money and Ashley awarded scholarships, but she wanted the students to be self-sufficient and have job skills. She created a jewelry company as part of the Shine Project. All of the items are put together by the students.

ASHLEY LEMIEUX: They range from bracelets to necklaces to earrings, to rings.

VIDEO: They are paid for their work on top of receive scholarships. Not only is this their first job, they are also the first ones in their families to go to college. Brianna Garza has been with the Shine Project for two years. She graduated South Mountain Community College and wants to study child psychology at ASU.

BRIANNA GARZA: During high school I knew I wanted to attend college. Sometimes my parents do struggle a little bit financially. I want people to know that the Shine Project is more than having a job and making bracelets. It's to change people's lives and give people opportunities for people who maybe just don't have hope.

VIDEO: Sergio Eseberre is majoring in accounting at ASU. Besides providing him with a job, the Shine Project has helped him achieve a lifelong goal.

SERGIO ESEBERRE: I wanted to attend college, especially seeing my dad. He didn't go to college so he's been working construction most of his life. He's always telling me, if you don't go to school, this is what you're going to have to do. It's a tough job, I've seen him get pretty beat up, so I knew that I would go to school.

VIDEO: While Ashley oversees the students, they're the ones who in charge of marketing, customer service, product development and shipping.

ASHLEY LEMIEUX: Creating a place to come and work is so vital, it is so important that they learn accountability for their work, that they have pride and ownership over the work that they do. We want them to be leaders and we want them to know when they go to their first real-life job interviews that they have confidence doing that, and that they know that they are able to contribute to other companies and other organizations, wherever they choose to serve.

VIDEO: Ashley says she has high expectations of her employees. But even more importantly, they have learned to have those expectations for themselves.

BRIANNA GARZA: I know what I'm capable of, and I know I can do great things. And I know it'll take me far.

CHRISTINA ESTES: So far the Shine Project says it's helped more than 40 students pay for college. If you'd like to help with a donation or maybe buy some jewelry, visit theshineproject.com. Joining us to talk about the spectrum of nonprofit employment is Kimberly Hall, director of community engagement for Goodwill of Arizona and Kristen Wilson, the CEO of the alliance of Arizona nonprofits. Easier for me to say than Shine apparently. Thank both of you for coming in. Kristen, let's start with you. Give us an overall view of the nonprofit sector. How many nonprofits, how many people employed?

KRISTEN WILSON: There are about 20,000 nonprofits in the state of Arizona.

CHRISTINA ESTES: 20,000?

KRISTEN WILSON 20,000. When you start to think about that, everything from PTA groups all the way up to some of our major charities in the local Arizona area. Probably more about 14,000 are really what you would consider the normal T-3's you would see out doing work in the community. What's interesting though is even with that amount, the impact, as far as employment, they are about at 9% of the employment in Arizona. You kind of consider manufacturing and construction, we're right up in there. It's a huge impact.

CHRISTINA ESTES: We never think that, we always think construction. I never think about nonprofits that way.

KRISTEN WILSON: In Arizona, absolutely. A major contributor also to the GDP, we're at about 7% of that. A major contributor in quite a few ways to the local Arizona economy.

CHRISTINA ESTES: What kind of jobs?

KRISTEN WILSON: Everything ranges from people out in the field doing service, providing some of those touch points with the actual community, all the way up to everything you would think of in a normal organization. H.R., people doing business development, fund development, CEOs, the whole gamut of different professional positions.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Kimberly, Goodwill's motto is you put people to work. How do you do that?

KIMBERLY HALL: We do that internally and externally. We have about 3,000 employees throughout our 67 retail stores and 22 career centers. Externally we support hundreds of employers around the Valley with their hiring needs. Internally and externally we're really able to support the Valley and the communities as a whole get back to work.

CHRISTINA ESTES: The career centers, you offer a lot there. Tell us about that.

KIMBERLY HALL: 22 career centers around the valley, Prescott and Yuma. In these career centers, job seekers can come in, there's no appointment necessary, there's no cost to it. Our goal is to help get people back to work as quickly as possible. We assist with resume development, interviewing skills, we connect employers with great talent in the community. Last year alone we served over 74,000 people and assisted with over 44,000 job placements. We're really serious about getting people back to work.

CHRISTINA ESTES: What kind of jobs are you talking about? I know you have a lot of customer service training.
KIMBERLY HALL: Yes, we do. We have short-term training for job seekers as well as for the general public to be able to come in and get all the resources they need at no cost, that's because of generous donations of our donors. Our lifecycle our life blood is really donations. Literally 90 cents of every dollar that we earn in our retail stores goes right back into the community to help put people to work.

CHRISTINA ESTES: How about the seniors? Because you have a program for seniors. Talk about that.

KIMBERLY HALL: Our senior program is for adults 55 years old and older who are looking to get back into the job market. They have opportunities to train 20 hours a week, where they are learning new skills, building their resumes, all the with the intent of getting back to work full time. A great program with a lot of great success stories. We've helped seniors between 55 years old and 85-year-old individuals trying to get back to work. It's a great program.

CHRISTINA ESTES: I imagine you've probably seen an increase in that age group, given what we've experienced economically over the last five years. A lot of people losing jobs and having to start over.

KIMBERLY HALL: A lot of people need income now at all levels and ages. You're seeing the older population, the senior population try to delve back into the market so they can sustain themselves. Goodwill is glad to partner with them and help them do that.

CHRISTINA ESTES: And Kristen, when it comes to nonprofits in general and the kind of people who work for them. A lot of people think once you work in a nonprofit that's your career past forever and ever and ever. You've worked for a nonprofit, but it was business oriented nonprofit. Is that unusual, or do you find people leave the business world and move into nonprofits? Who do you work with?

KRISTEN WILSON: Sure. When I first entered the wonderful world of nonprofits, you find that a lot of people are kind of intermingled. They use different positions as launching pads. I think it's wonderful, it brings such a breadth and a wealth of different types of experience, so they can work together from the for-profit side and the nonprofit side. All different kinds of people work for nonprofits. It depends on what their goals are and what their passion is. Some of them are on the supporting side and some are on the direct service side. It's a great group. It's an interesting, diverse group of people that work for nonprofits.

CHRISTINA ESTES: What about generational differences? Do you see more older more younger or --

KRISTEN WILSON: I think with the milliennials in the workforce now, you see a lot of them more engaged in -- They are looking for volunteer or maybe take a year off after college. In fact, the alliance has a program with AmeriCorps Vista, which actually matches up a -- it could be a college graduate, it could also be someone with a career to assign them to a nonprofit agency to work a year on capacity building. Specifically that program helps organizations that are bringing people out of poverty. They can work for a year and gain critical job skills, personal and professional skills but in a meaningful way, allowing them to really make a difference in some of our nonprofits here in Arizona.

CHRISTINA ESTES: There are any gaps in the nonprofit sector, where, oh my gosh, we have a tough time filling this position?

KRISTEN WILSON: Not that I've been aware of necessarily. I know there's a diversity as far as gender sometimes. You know, that people are looking to see more females in the leadership role, which is wonderful to be here with three of us here today. But I think also some of the gaps, deals a lot more with like board service. They are really trying to engage the milliennials in more board service and volunteer goals. That's where the alliance can kind of help provide some professional development opportunities to help fill some of those gaps.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Fortunately, our economy is in much better shape than it was just a few years ago. How does that impact what you do, Kimberly? Is there a slowdown, is it the same, do you see more people coming to you? What do you -- what does the future hold for Goodwill?

KIMBERLY HALL: Of course after 2008 we inclined quite a bit with job seekers coming in. But honestly, it's been steadily growing every year. I think more of that is around awareness. So we help unemployed and underemployed. So that's the thing most people don't know. If you're still looking for work, you may have that interim job right now but you want a career, you can still come to Goodwill and we're here to support you with that. Year over year we've been seeing an incline since 2008.

CHRISTINA ESTES: For those looking for a new job, or to move up or for some training. What's the best way to do that? Where do I go?

KIMBERLY HALL: 22 career centers around the valley, I recommend going to our website for all of our location, at Goodwill.az.org, or you can call 602-535-4444 and we'll connect you to the closest career center in your area.

CHRISTINA ESTES: Kimberly Hall with Goodwill, Kristen Wilson, thank you so much for joining us. Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon" we'll hear from three Arizona historians, including one self-described hip-storian, all with their own unique perspectives on history and the state's unique character, at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." I'm Christina Estes in for Ted Simons, Thanks so much for joining us, have a great night.

Clint Bolick:Vice President of Litigation, Goldwater Institute;April Olson:Rothstein Law Firm

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