October 26, 2011
Anna Christopher, NPR



While Lt. Gov., South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard Also Ran Children’s Home Society, Housing Hundreds of Native Children, and Earning Non-Profit $50 Million

An NPR News Investigation into inequalities in the South Dakota foster care system for Native Americans continues today, with a report by correspondent Laura Sullivan examining the influence of a powerful child welfare system in a state that removes Native-American children from their homes at a higher rate than almost any other. While lieutenant governor from 2003-2009, South Dakota's now-Governor Dennis Daugaard also ran one of the largest non-profits in the state, the Children's Home Society, which received tens of millions of dollars in no-compete contracts to foster many Native children.

The report, the second in the three-part series "Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families," is airing today on All Things Considered, and available now at NPR.org. Part 1 investigated why hundreds of Native-American children are placed in state foster care every year, many under questionable circumstances, rather than with their family and tribes, as required by the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.

As NPR reported yesterday, each year, South Dakota is removing children at almost three times the rate of other states. More than half of those children are Native American, even though they are less than 15 percent of the state’s child population. And, NPR's investigation found that 90 percent of Native children in foster care in South Dakota are placed in non-native homes or privately-run group homes.

In today's story, Sullivan reports on the steady growth of one of those group homes, the Children's Home Society, while under the leadership of now-Gov. Daugaard – at the same time he was serving at lieutenant governor. In 2002, after years of financial trouble at Children's Home, Daugaard became the group’s chief operating officer; one year later, he was promoted to executive director, for which he was paid $115,000 a year. Daugaard became lieutenant governor of South Dakota in 2003.

Under his seven year leadership of Children's Home, Daugaard turned the organization around. NPR reports that the money the group was getting from the state doubled. It grew financially to seven times its size, and added two new facilities. Children’s Home is now the largest private foster care outfit in the state, providing services for up to 2,000 children a year. NPR reports that during that time, as the state began outsourcing much of its work, such as training foster care parents and examining potential foster homes, Children's Home got almost every one of those contracts. In just about every case, Children's Home did not compete for the contracts. For almost seven years, until this year, Daugaard’s colleagues in state government just chose the organization and sent it money, more than $50 million in all.

Critics tell NPR that Children's Home has become a virtual powerhouse. It not only examines all the potential foster families and homes, it houses the most children. It trains the state’s case workers and holds all of the state’s training classes for foster parents. It does all of the state’s examinations of children who may have been abused. For all of this work, Children’s Home is paid tens of millions of dollars every year.

The complete report from Sullivan is available at NPR.org. All text excerpts must be credited to "NPR News." Broadcast outlets may use up to sixty (60) consecutive seconds of audio from the reports. Television usage must include on-screen chyron to "NPR News" with the NPR logo.

The NPR News Investigative Unit crosses all news desks and programs to build upon, and strengthen the commitment to, NPR's established investigative work. The team's extensive reporting includes Post Mortem, exploring why many suspicious deaths are improperly investigated; Brain Wars, an ongoing examination of traumatic brain injury and the military; and a continuing look at mine safety in America, following the explosion at Upper Big Branch in West Virginia. NPR reaches a growing audience of more than 27 million listeners weekly; to find local stations and broadcast times for NPR programs, visit www.npr.org