South Dakota governor criticizes NPR investigation on Native foster children

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The governor of South Dakota is criticizing an NPR investigative report on foster care for Native American children in the state, according to the Daily Republic in Mitchell. The yearlong project, “Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families” ran as a three-part series by NPR investigative correspondent Laura Sullivan on Morning Edition and All Things Considered in October 2011. Sullivan found that nearly 700 Native American children in South Dakota are removed from their homes every year, and that the vast majority of those children are placed into nonnative homes or group homes. According to the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, Native children must be placed with their relatives or tribes.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard told the newspaper’s editorial board on Monday (Jan. 16), “I can’t identify any legitimate criticisms that identified an area where we could take action. It raised my level of knowledge, but I think that’s a poor way to cause me to raise my level of knowledge, through a sensational story that was unfounded.”

The newspaper said that Daugaard and his chief spokesman have been in contact with NPR’s ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos, for six weeks. Schumacher-Matos said in a column on Dec. 23, 2011, that he is looking into their concerns.

UPDATE: Here is a statement from NPR on Daugaard’s comments. “We stand by our story. NPR’s Laura Sullivan conducted extensive research and interviewed more than 100 people over the course of a year. The state granted NPR only one interview, with two state officials, which they limited to one half hour, and declined further requests for interviews and information. Sullivan is currently working on an additional report in this series from South Dakota and we hope the governor and department officials will reconsider and sit down with her to better explain this issue from their perspective.”

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