The U.S. Senate gave final approval to a bill that would establish a commission to study Native American children’s problems. The 11 member Commission on Native Children will analyze different issues, including poverty, crime, child abuse, and domestic violence and offer solutions for streamlining existing programs at the federal, state, local, and tribal level so that Native young people have a better chance to succeed.
The legislation was sponsored by U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota. She believes that some of the programs that serve Native American children do not coordinate with each other, which impacts their ability to help children.
“We are missing the cohesive thing that we need, which is just taking a look at one child’s life, and what is it in that one child’s life that would make a difference in outcomes,” Heitkamp said.
There are many unique challenges facing Native youth, especially when they live on reservations. Federal experts state that post-traumatic stress disorder among some children is comparable to military veterans who have served in war zones. Over one third of Native American children live in poverty and have the lowest graduation rate of any racial group.