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Gov. to YST: 'We want to help financially'

WAGNER -- Gov. Dennis Daugaard told Yankton Sioux tribal leaders Friday he supports the ability of the state's tribes to manage their own child protective services.

Daugaard met Friday with the Yankton Sioux Tribe's Business and Claims Committee, the tribe's governing body, at the tribe's headquarters in Wagner. Daugaard explained the federal government has recently started dealing directly with tribes that want to handle their own child protective services.

Daugaard said that's a change from how things have been handled in the past, as tribes have typically contracted with the state to handle all those services. In some cases, Daugaard said tribes have agreed to handle the recruitment of foster parents while the state handles the rest of the work involved.

Daugaard said he favors tribes handling child protective services if they wish, because many times it's easier to find foster parents when people are dealing with a local government, as opposed to the state.

"We will sometimes find people are more comfortable with government that is more local, and I think we support that philosophically," Daugaard said in an interview with The Daily Republic.

Daugaard said the state will still pay for a portion of the Medicaid payments paid to foster children for tribes that contract directly with the federal government, even though that's not required of the state.

"We want to help financially, and we will," he said.

Glenford "Sam" Sully, a member of the committee, said it's extremely difficult to find foster families within the tribe's reservation.

"I think our major objective is safety of our children," Sully said.

Sully briefly mentioned an incident that happened in 2012 at a Yankton Sioux tribal housing project near Wagner, when 2-year-old Rielee Lovell was found dead in a closet in the home of Laurie and Taylor Cournoyer. Both admitted to using methamphetamine, sleeping pills and marijuana in the days leading up to the child's death.

Daugaard said the state also has issues finding enough foster parents to meet the need because in many cases, foster children have behaviors that are difficult to manage, which leads some foster parents to give up.

"You're bringing foster parents in one door and they're going out the other door at the same time," he said.

Daugaard said the federal government has grants available for tribes that want to explore the idea of handling their own child protective services, but Yankton Sioux tribal leaders took no official action Friday.