The ACLU Foundation of Northern California joins the call of four sovereign Tribal Nations, the Yurok Tribe, Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria, the Wiyot Tribe, and the Trinidad Rancheria, to support the California Attorney General's effort to extend a 2018 judgment regarding Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) failures to resolve serious deficiencies in the child welfare system.
According to a recent report by the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), the judgment compliance monitor, Humboldt County has failed to comply with critical components of the judgment. Two years into the judgment, Humboldt County has not developed clear policies and procedures for collaboration with Tribes, while existing policies are routinely ignored. Critically, the judgment requires Humboldt County DHHS to establish protocols in collaboration with Tribes for the protection and welfare of tribal children, including delineation of concurrent jurisdiction. These protocols still do not exist. Despite these failures, Humboldt County DHHS opposes the continued participation of third-party monitors that, as Attorney General Becerra stated, “keep the spotlight on Humboldt County’s implementation of system-wide reforms to protect children.”
“DHHS must respect tribal sovereignty and should use a collaborative decision-making process, in line with the Governor’s Executive Order which affirms government to government consultation with California Native American Tribe’s regarding policies that may affect tribal communities, with the goal to reach consensus before decisions are made that affect Native citizens and their families,” said Tedde Simon, Indigenous Justice Interim Program Manager at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California.
Tribes have a vested interest in their children’s well-being and possess the skills, tools, and knowledge to best respond to those needs and care for their citizens. In addition to their moral and legal obligations to consult with Tribal governments, local, state, and federal officials themselves would benefit from the wisdom and experience of tribal communities, whose leadership and solutions can serve Native and non-Native children and communities. The long history of local, state, and federal governments removing Native children from their families by force has had devastating, long-term consequences on tribal communities. Since time of contact, settlers in Humboldt County violently kidnapped Native American children and sold them into slavery. Ancestral lands throughout the state were stolen through the violent dispossession and murder of Indigenous people. The overrepresentation of Native American children in the child welfare system is a continuation of this egregious history.
In sum, an extension of the judgment is necessary to ensure that tribal sovereignty is respected and upheld and that Tribes have an active role in decision making that directly impacts the wellbeing of their families, their communities, and their children.