01/02/2013 08:49 am ET Updated Mar 04, 2013

Indian Child Welfare Scandal Unfolds in South Dakota


In a basement interrogation room in South Dakota, agents of the state's Department of Criminal Investigation were on the firing line. A group of Native American children were claiming sexual and physical abuse by their white adoptive parents, whose home they first entered as foster children. The agents were determined to get the kids to recant.

To see portion of the video during which the agents are off camera, but caught on an open mic as they plan their interrogation strategy, go to the full article on, an investigative news website.

When the interrogation took place, South Dakota was already under Congressional scrutiny for the high number of Native children it takes from their homes and tribes and then places, for the most part, with white foster families or in white-run group homes -- seemingly to claim a higher share of federal foster care funding. Though Native children make up about 13 percent of South Dakota's child population, they are typically more than 50 percent of those in care, according to federal figures. A recent tribal report has rekindled Congress's concerns.

Startlingly, the South Dakota state agents who summoned the children to the interrogation room that day in November 2011 wanted the youngsters to give up their abuse claims. State officials also brought charges against the deputy state's attorney and a child welfare advocate, Brandon Taliaferro, and Shirley Schwab, who moved to stop the abuse. Their trial on charges of getting the children to lie about the abuse is set for this coming Monday, January 7, 2013.

The state's response to the Native children's accusations offers a rare look into South Dakota's foster care system. The state's actions also raise questions about the commitment of officials to protect Native children taken from their natural families, particularly when homes that are presented as safe havens turn into places of abuse.

To find out more, and to see the video excerpt, go to

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