Oglala Sioux tribe working to protect children

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - It's hard today to paint a rosy picture of the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Child Protective Services.

The underfunded operation has but one vehicle to serve the 3,500 square mile reservation and has't had a full time director for months. But tribal leaders are stepping up and have brought together all the stakeholders -- CPS, police, courts and educators -- for a three day summit in Rapid City to brainstorm solutions.

Things got so bad for the Pine Ridge CPS that in April the tribal council considered turning over the program to state control. That plan was shelved but the deeper leaders dug, the worse the picture looked.

"When I met with the employees, they were neglected," said OST Vice President Darla Black. "Bottom line? The program's neglected. They didn't have vehicles, they're underfunded. There are a lot of things they needed help with. So you can't expect a program to function when you don't have their needs met."

Tribal Council Member C.J. Clifford agreed.

"We found the record keeping wasn't exactly up to par as far as documentation and that's kind of hurting us," he said. "And not only that it's really actually hurting the children of our tribe."

And CPS services are critical in a community haunted by high rates of domestic violence and child neglect.

And so this week in in Rapid City at the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Protecting our Children gathering, remedies are being sought.

"Bringing everyone here today I was hoping they could brainstorm for solutions and to all come together," said Black. "How can we make this a better place for our children in the name of our children? How can we protect our children?"

Amber Sierra works for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and oversees the contract the bureau has with the tribe for Child Protective services. "We look at our children and my children and the grandchildren and the kids that we protect every day and we have to decide, 'How do want them to grow up?' " she said.