President Joe Biden has given a special commission a lengthy extension to complete a comprehensive report on all government and tribal programs that serve Indigenous children.
The work of the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, which got started in earnest in 2019, was originally supposed to have been completed next year, but the coronavirus pandemic slowed progress so much that it became apparent that meeting the deadline was not possible. That could have put the commission’s funding in jeopardy.
Concerned lawmakers, led by Alaska Republicans Lisa Murkowski in the Senate and Don Young in the House, pushed S. 325 through Congress, extending the study period from three years to five years. Biden, as expected, signed it on Friday, according to the White House.
The commission is studying federal, state, local and tribal programs that serve Indigenous children. While holding hearings around the country, the commission will evaluate, among other things, the impact of overlapping court jurisdiction on child welfare systems, barriers Native American tribes and Native Hawaiians face in using public and private grant resources, obstacles to charitable financial support, the validity and statistical significance of data on Native kids, and barriers to developing highly effective programs.
The report must also contain the commission’s recommendations for policy changes and program improvements that build on the strengths of Indigenous cultures.
The commission’s work is under the auspices of the Justice Department’s Office of Tribal Justice and is being assisted by multiple federal agencies.