Become a Patreon!


Excerpted From: Sadie Hart, Falling Through the Cracks: The American Indian Foster Care to Sexual Exploitation Pipeline and the Need for Expanded American Indian Community Services in Minnesota, 15 DePaul Journal for Social Justice 1 (Winter/Spring, 2021-2022) (240 Footnotes) (Full Document)

SadieHartFollowing the discovery of hundreds of children's bodies at residential schools in Canada, United States Interior Secretary Deb Haaland called for an investigation into the federal government's oversight of American Indian boarding schools. This call highlights a growing awareness of the United States' legacy of violence against American Indians. This history of colonization, intergenerational trauma, and the boarding school system are prominent factors of why violence and the child welfare system continue to disproportionately disrupt American Indian families, tribal communities, cultures, and traditions today. In Minnesota, American Indians make up two percent of the population, but nine percent of murdered women and girls from 2010 to 2019 were American Indian. youth in Minnesota are 16.4 times more likely than white youth to be in an out-of-home placement and are 5.8 times more likely to be reported as victims of sex trafficking or sexual exploitation than white youth. Yet even as awareness grows, there are few meaningful ways to address these disparities.

This is particularly worrisome for American Indian youth in the foster care system who the State of Minnesota has assumed responsibility for. While these youth may already be at a higher risk of sexual exploitation for the same reasons they initially entered foster care, the foster care system itself can increase this risk. The historical interconnection of sexual exploitation, separation of American families, and legacy of colonization demand a cultural response that non-American Indian services are unable to provide. The foster care system has failed to provide stable placements for American Indian youth due to higher rates of removal, placement mismatch, and a lack of American Indian foster families. The foster care experience creates the potential for loss of identity and disconnection from community and culture, both of which can be devastating for these youth and can increase their vulnerability to sexual exploitation. While American Indian programs exist to both prevent these youth from being sexually exploited and help them effectively exit sexual exploitation, their limited resources can help only a fraction of the American Indian foster care population. The State of Minnesota has an obligation to address and prevent the sexual exploitation of American Indian youth in its care but cannot adequately address this issue without first utilizing, expanding, and supporting American Indian programs to meet the youth's unique cultural needs.

This article proceeds in three parts. Part I introduces the intersection of involvement in the child welfare system and the increased risk of sexual exploitation among American Indian youth in Minnesota. Part II describes current federal and state laws regarding the response to sexual exploitation among American Indian youth involved with the child welfare system, as well as current initiatives to address the issue. Part III identifies opportunities to expand culturally based responses and discusses how these services provide holistic, long-term healing to American Indian foster youth in Minnesota that non-cultural services cannot provide.

[. . .]

The State of Minnesota has a responsibility to American Indian youth to address the dual traumas of foster care and sexual exploitation that have been perpetuated by the federal government's legacy of violence against American Indians. American Indian organizations such as the Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center and the Ain Dah Yung Center provide the foundation to prevent or address these traumas by offering cultural services that meet American Indian youth's tailored needs, which can help them exit sexual exploitation and limit future revictimization. While the current legal landscape presents opportunities to address this issue, these organizations cannot provide services to all who need them without adequate funding and support, and American Indian youth, who are already less likely to seek help, may be deterred from accessing life-changing services and assistance. Expansion of programs like these and investment in American Indian communities and ways of healing are essential to decrease the vulnerability of American Indian youth in foster care to sexual exploitation. With additional resources, these programs could expand to provide all American Indian youth with access to prevention programs that are key to ending the perpetuation of future trauma while encouraging healing within their communities.

The term “American Indian” is used throughout this article to refer to the Indigenous people of the United States, including Alaska. The term “Indian” refers to people who are members of, or eligible for membership in, a federally recognized tribe.

Become a Patreon!