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SD lawmaker withdraws bill on Indian foster care

PIERRE (AP) -- A state lawmaker withdrew a bill Wednesday that would have set up a monitoring program to determine whether South Dakota is complying with a federal law governing foster care and adoptions for American Indian children.

The House Judiciary Committee scrapped the bill at the request of its main sponsor, Rep. Kevin Killer, D-Pine Ridge, who said state legislation needs to be delayed a year to see how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a South Carolina case dealing with the Indian Child Welfare Act.

"This is a bipartisan issue. We'll hopefully focus on this next session," Killer told the committee.

South Dakota tribal officials have alleged that the state is violating the federal law by removing too many American Indian children from their homes and putting them in foster care with non-Indian families. ICWA requires that Native American children removed from their homes must be placed with relatives or put in foster care with other Native American families except in unusual circumstances.

ICWA directors from South Dakota's nine tribes and the U.S. Interior Department are holding a summit April 15-17 in Rapid City to discuss the issue. Those tribal officials have submitted a report to Congress that details how they believe the state is violating the law. The summit and report are in response to a 2011 National Public Radio series that said the state routinely broke the law and disrupted hundreds of Native American families each year.

State officials have called the NPR report inaccurate, unfair and biased. They have said that a disproportionate number of Native American children are involved in the child welfare system because the state receives more referrals for alleged abuse and neglect involving them.

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