Lois Thunder has been trying to bring her grandchildren home ever since the state removed them in 2007 on charges of neglect.
State social workers placed all five children in foster care after Thunder’s granddaughter told a teacher their mom was never home. The children’s parents, who were abusing drugs and alcohol, were incapable of caring for them, Thunder admits, but she can’t understand why the children weren’t released to her.
“My husband and I, we took care of all them kids when their parents were on the outs, drinking and doing whatever,” she says. “We took care of them kids.”
The placement was a violation of the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a federal law that stipulates Indian children be placed with extended family members, tribal members or in a home with at least one Native foster parent. But experts say the majority end up in non-Native homes.