Prioritize studies regarding foster care in North Dakota
Wednesday, the North Dakota Legislative Council meets to prioritize studies that were recommended by the Legislature during the last session. SB 2420 is one of these bills. It asks for studies on child support guidelines and also for a study on an ombudsman’s office for family consumers of services.
By: John Ford, Rugby, N.D.
Wednesday, the North Dakota Legislative Council meets to prioritize studies that were recommended by the Legislature during the last session. SB 2420 is one of these bills. It asks for studies on child support guidelines and also for a study on an ombudsman’s office for family consumers of services. This amendment was a direct result of lobbying on behalf of families that have children in foster care.
North Dakota has one of the highest rates of foster care placements in the country. Many of these foster care placements are in modern day orphanages, such as Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch or Home on the Range, or warehoused through agencies like PATH of North Dakota. One of the worst statistics we have here is that placements in these “homes” happen at twice the national average here in our state.
There are few rules regarding who can be housed together in these facilities, and in the recent past, “at risk” children have been housed with convicted sex offenders. There are far too many cases where children have been removed illegally, or not returned to their homes when the allegations of abuse leveled at the parents have been overturned by judges.
Cases involving children in foster homes who are being deprived, as defined by NDCC 27-20-02(8), are allowed to continue by the Department of Human Services because, as Carol Olson, executive director of DHS, has explained, there is no place else to house these children. DHS has quietly convinced the Administrative Rules Committee to pass administrative laws that allow this practice to continue. When parents or the children themselves complain, theses complaints are not acted upon.
Oftentimes the same abuses that the parents of these children are accused of are “licensing issues” when they are committed by foster parents.
SB 2420 section 2 seeks a study for an ombudsman’s office as a place for complaints from parents and children to be investigated. It would be independent from DHS. There are currently 19 states in our country with ombudsman’s offices. Out-of-home placements are six times more likely here in North Dakota than in any of these states.
North Dakota prides itself on old-time family values, and we need to encourage our state legislators to embrace this value and prioritize this study for the sake of all family units in North Dakota.
Ford, Rugby, N.D., is executive director, North Dakota Coalition for Child Protection Services and Foster Care Reform.