N.D. officials looking for American Indian foster homes 5-29-07

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Burleigh and Morton counties have just one licensed American Indian foster home even though nearly 70 Indian children need foster care each year, say organizers of an effort to find more Indian foster homes.

Two public forums are planned next month to discuss the details of being a foster parent.

The licensed American Indian foster home in Burleigh and Morton counties belongs to Dakota and Casey Goodhouse. They have two children of their own and are taking a break from foster care because of Casey Goodhouse's pregnancy.

Mike Mabin, the owner of Agency MABU, the Bismarck marketing firm helping with the foster care search, said being placed with an American Indian family can give Indian youngsters more comfort and security.

“Already they're going through a lot of stress and turmoil in going into another home,” said Mabin, who is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

Mabin said little things can make daily life less jarring for the children, such as having foster parents who look similar to them.

Burleigh County is part of a project started by the state Human Services Department more than a year ago to try to find Indian foster families.

Mabin's marketing firm was given the task of conducting research and organizing the project. A task force was formed, and Mabin set a goal of finding six new foster families.

United Tribes Technical College and American-Indian owned businesses have been helping to get the word out.

Barb Stegmiller, a task force member and social worker for Burleigh County Social Services, said it usually takes about a year before a family can make the final decision to become a foster home. She hopes people come forward in the next year.

Mabin said research indicates that American Indian leaders need to help spread the message so people understand that “this is a need in Indian Country.”

He said people may shy away from attempting to become a licensed foster home after finding out it means many hours of training, a home study, a background check and other requirements.

“It takes a very unique person at the right time in life to be able to step forward at that level,” Mabin said.

Dakota Goodhouse said he and his wife have had six or seven foster children.

Goodhouse, the interpretive director at On-the-Slant Village at Fort Lincoln State Park, said that he was able to use the Lakota language in speaking with one 2-year-old boy.

He said his focus has been on family.

“It's more important (for them)to see the family environment,” he said. “That's the basic philosophy of the Lakota frame of mind.”

He said the word Lakota in its truest, most basic interpretation means “affection.”

Two public forums are scheduled about the process of becoming a foster parent.

The first one is planned June 13 at United Tribes Technical
College and the second is planned June 20 at the Bismarck Public