Skip to comments.NPR, Ombudsman Differ On S. Dakota Indian Foster Care Series
Posted on 08/12/2013 7:28:53 PM PDT by La Lydia
After an extensive investigation lasting well over a year, NPR's ombudsman has concluded the network's series on South Dakota's efforts to put Native American in foster care was fundamentally flawed. The network and the ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos, who is paid to critique NPR's news coverage, have split sharply over his findings. The series, which appeared in October 2011 on All Things Considered, alleged that the state of South Dakota took Native American children and separated them from their families and tribes at an alarming rate. The series won national awards and helped inspire federal and state reviews of such policies.
NPR correspondent Laura Sullivan reported the original series over many months with producer Amy Walters, who now works for Al Jazeera America. The stories present a wrenching tale in South Dakota. American Indians make up 15 percent of the state's population, but, as Sullivan told listeners in October 2011, they account for more than half the children in foster care.
"It's not hard to find them," she reported. "There are thousands of them: Native Americans with missing children."
Listeners then heard from Tanya Hill, from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, among others. "I lost nine grandchildren through the Department of Social Services," she says.
NPR told listeners that state authorities appeared to be ignoring a federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act, requiring them to do everything possible to place Native American foster children with relatives or other Native American families. They did so partly, NPR reported, because of cultural biases.
Some listeners and conservative commentators complained about the series from the outset. Ombudsman Schumacher-Matos started to hear from state officials, as well, including the governor.
NPR Ombudsman: S. Dakota Indian Foster Care 1: Investigative Storytelling Gone Awry "What struck me was how the facts the basic facts, like budget facts and numbers were so different from what was being reported in the NPR series," Schumacher-Matos says. "That kind of cried for investigation."
Starting in earnest at the outset of 2012, Schumacher-Matos found a series of failings. As NPR reported, more than eight out of 10 Native American children in South Dakota assigned to foster homes were placed with white families. It also alleged a motive.
"A closer view of South Dakota's budget shows there's a financial incentive at work," Sullivan reported in 2011. "Every time a state puts a child in foster care, the federal government sends money. Because South Dakota is poor, it sends lots of money almost $100 million a year."
As Schumacher-Matos found, and NPR News now acknowledges that figure doesn't bear up to scrutiny.
Additionally, Schumacher-Matos decided the perspective of state officials was not adequately reflected in the piece. .."The more I kept looking, I saw that there was a lot of missing context that should have been there," he says. "And finally, we didn't have response from the state on so many key points in the series ... It added up to deeply flawed report that shouldn't have aired as it was."
Schumacher-Matos wrote an exhaustive 80-page report, published late Friday at NPR.org, detailing his findings. NPR news executives declined to be interviewed for this story, pointing instead to the response they posted online...
That said, the network stands by the thrust of Sullivan's reporting. ...
Kelly McBride, a senior ethics scholar at The Poynter Institute, a journalism training center in St. Petersburg, Fl., who has also served as an ombudsman for ESPN, says Schumacher-Matos wanted NPR to produce a different story one about the full crisis besetting Native American families rather than simply critique the story it broadcast.
"In a way, it sets up an unfair challenge to NPR," McBride says. "... McBride argues that it's hard to tell whether the weight of the ombudsman's critique is warranted by the mistakes admittedly committed by NPR in this case....
McBride contrasted the ombudsman's six-chapter critique, logging in excess of 30,000 words with the treatment given to Jayson Blair, one of journalism's most notorious fabricators. She says Schumacher-Matos' six-chapter report "was pretty significant" in comparison.
"That, I think, is more than everything that the New York Times wrote about Jayson Blair," McBride says. "And if you look at what Jayson Blair did, that was obviously much more egregious."...
NPR's Margaret Low Smith says the network took a hard look at its stories and simply reached a different conclusion than Schumacher-Matos did.
I think that is “fake but fake but true but fake.”
States like MASS seeks out gay couples to foster kids and you can figure the results.
the Indian kids are prime picking - as once they get them off the rez, whose going to help?
the blacks and Hispanics cry ‘discrimination! racist!” but everyone knows they exist. The Native Americans are still the “Invisibles” - and the gov’t still keeps them down. (Lots of big money for the BIA agents. They aren't about to let that slip through their hands either.)
And unless YOU have “walked in their moccasins” - don't regurgitate the bilge about liquor and the rest of the carp -
I am sure you mean well. But as a matter of fact more than 50 percent of children taken into care in this country come from homes where substance abuse was one of the factors that made them unsafe. Meth use is driving the increase in the number of children going into care. Surely you are not arguing that they would be better off left in such circumstances? Or are you?