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Graham : NICWA Clarifies Child Maltreatment Statistics to Washington Post

03/12/2014 | 05:25am US/Eastern

PORTLAND, Ore., March 11 -- The National Indian Child Welfare Association issued the following news release:

NICWA provided the following information to reporter Sari Horwitz via email, in response to her article "The hard lives -- and high suicide rate -- of Native American children on reservations," published in the Washington Post on March 9, 2014.

Hello Sari,

Thank you for including NICWA Deputy Director Sarah Kastelic in yesterday's article about youth suicide in Indian Country. I felt it very important to point out that your inclusion of the quote contending that Indian children suffer abuse and neglect at two times the rate as other racial groups is not supported by data and is dangerously misleading.

In fact, national data collected yearly on child maltreatment (abuse and neglect) shows that AI/AN children are victims of child maltreatment at a rate of 12.4 children per 1,000 AI/AN children as compared to all children who are victims at a rate of 9.2 children per 1,000 children in the population. This means that although AI/AN children are victims of abuse and neglect at a higher rate than the general population, it is not twice the rate as suggested by the article. (Source: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/cm2012.pdf#page=31)

Also, data from previous years call attention to the types of maltreatment AI/AN children face.

American Indian/Alaska Native children are more likely than children of other races/ethnicities to be confirmed as victims of neglect (79.4 percent of all AI/AN children who were maltreated were reported as being neglected v. 71.6 of all children) and are least likely to be confirmed as victims of physical abuse (10.6 percent of all AI/AN children who were maltreated were reported as being physically abused v. 16.2 of all children). (Source: http://archive.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm08/cm08.pdf )

This means that AI/AN families are less likely to physically harm their children but more likely to neglect their children than the general population. This distinction is extremely important because, as those with deep experience in the field of child welfare know, "poverty" and "neglect" often become blurred or synonymous in the subjective determination of child welfare workers, including those unfamiliar with Indian communities. In other words, a determination of neglect is more subject to bias, which data also shows that AI/AN children face disproportionately at many other points in the child welfare system.

Sari, there are well-organized and well-funded lobbying groups who actively advocate for the removal of our children from loving homes by attempting to paint all Indian families as deficient, dangerous, and dysfunctional in one broad stroke. We have no doubt that they will cite your article, and the misleading statistic that we abuse and neglect our children wantonly, as evidence to support child removal. Therefore, we felt it extremely important to call this to your attention and request that some clarification or correction be made.

I am happy to connect you with data and other resources so that any future coverage addresses the myriad efforts of Indian communities--including many successes--to address the problems you detailed in this piece.

Thank you,

Nicole Adams

Executive Communications Manager

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(c) 2014 Targeted News Service

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