I spoke to my friend on the Pine Ridge Reservation yesterday. You know, the friend whose daughter got pregnant while in state custody. I don’t recall when I have heard her so angry.
If you aren’t aware of the circumstances I’m referring to, the short version is: Her daughter was placed in state custody at 15 years old for being a chronic runaway. She is currently in placement in a “secure” home for girls in Mitchell, SD. A few weeks ago, my friend got a call from a nurse at a hospital out there. The nurse told her that her daughter had suffered a “spontaneous abortion”. My friend assumed her daughter must have been at least 4 months pregnant since she had been in custody since July. The nurse told her no, it was about 6 weeks and it had been confirmed by her blood work.
My friend realized that, if that were true, her daughter had gotten pregnant while in state custody. So she notified Child Protective Services, the US Attorney (because the child is a Native American, the federal government has jurisdiction over major crimes) and the tribe.
Suddenly, things are changing. The woman she had been working with at Child Protective Services is doing something else now and a new woman has been assigned to the case. This new woman told my friend that the doctor now says “perhaps he made a mistake.”
A mistake? Blood work doesn’t lie – especially when the tech doing the test has no idea of the details of the case. Pregnancy is clearly detected by blood test. This isn’t a home pregnancy test. This isn’t a case of someone claiming to be pregnant. This is a blood test that was done because a child was having problems and taken to the doctor by the state.
The new woman at CPS then had the gall to ask my friend when she had last visited her daughter. She was treating her as a “bad mother” – you know the tone people take when they are trying to make you feel small and humiliated. Of course, my friend told her just 2 weeks ago and called her on her attitude. (Be advised that bureaucrats do not take kindly to having their faults pointed out. It creates even worse attitudes.)
My friend feels badly enough that her daughter has gotten herself into this place. She has done everything short of putting the child in shackles to keep her home and prevent her from getting into trouble. But now she has run up against the “blame the mother” attitude. She will not take that from anyone. I can see a storm brewing.
The bigger problems I see are many.
First, the state took a child away from both her family and her culture (albeit for good reasons). Initially she was in Rapid City – “only” an hour away from family and they could visit her regularly. It was definitely a hardship, since they have an unreliable vehicle and no money for gas. Indeed, I gave them gas money several times. They drove the hour each way for each short visit they were allowed.
Then the state found this “permanent” placement – and the child is now 4 hours away from home and family. That means that, in order to visit her daughter, my friend has to travel 4 hours just to get there, spending a much larger sum of money to do it, then travel 4 hours to return home to the reservation. With no job, having to somehow pay “child support” to the state anyway, having a car most people wouldn’t own that burns gas and oil like most of us drink water – with all those obstacles, my friend has still managed to visit her daughter periodically.
Second, I smell a rat when it comes to the “mistake” claim. Of course the state and the facility don’t want anyone to hear about this. A child became pregnant in state protective custody. The medical facility called the child’s mother to advise her of the medical facts. I know this is true because my friend had to ask what a “spontaneous abortion” was – it isn’t a term she would use. She would use the term most laypersons use – miscarriage.
Suddenly the doctor recants? Says there was a mistake? Then why did the nurse tell my friend that the blood pregnancy test had been positive. Suddenly the sympathetic case worker is removed and replaced by one with a negative attitude toward my friend? That’s a remarkable coincidence. Suddenly no one knows anything and no one will give my friend any information about her daughter? Yet they ask how often she visits in accusing tones?
The phrase that comes to mind is “cover up.” It is less negative to say the doctor made a mistake (will the malpractice insurance carrier see it that way?) than to say that the state was negligent in the care of this young woman. But that kind of thing doesn’t really happen, does it?
I might think that perhaps I was being a bit paranoid about the whole thing if we were relying solely on the word of the child. But we are basing our views on the words of a medical professional.
I might think that perhaps I was being a bit paranoid if this were a young white girl from the suburbs. But it is not. It is a young Lakota girl from the reservation. In South Dakota.
I have seen the prejudice and bias toward Indians in South Dakota first hand, with my own eyes. I have seen looks and attitudes that I thought long gone. I am not a young woman. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. I saw the attitudes of the South and the work for civil rights. The South may be changing. The country may have elected a president “of color” (I am trying to be as politically correct as I can here). I have also seen and heard the attitudes of South Dakota in the past 5 years.
In 2005, a group told us the family of the child we sponsor could not know our address or phone number “for our protection.” Otherwise, they might just show up on our doorstep, looking for handouts. (I find that rather funny, since I live MANY miles away and know how difficult it can be for folks on the rez to even get to Rapid City, an hour or so away.) We stayed with the family (who are now our friends) and left the group. I now work with a different group which works to foster the friendship and personal connection. We have shopped and dined out with our friends in places where we had done those same things without them as well. We have seen the way they (and we, as their friends) were treated differently.
So is it a far stretch to think that someone in the system decided that the best way to cover up this blatant negligence was to say someone “made a mistake”? Better a mistake than a law suit, right? Everyone makes a mistake now and then.
I say there has been negligence either way. Either a young woman was not protected in state custody or a mother has been stressed to her limits by a “mistake” made by the professionals charged with caring for her daughter.
Either way – a wrong has been done!