U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (Rep-N.D.) is pushing the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold hearings about child abuse and neglect on American Indian reservations.
A Bureau of Indian Affairs review earlier this year detailed problems in tribal social services programs on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation located in North Dakota.
Thomas Sullivan, regional administrator in Denver for the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, called for suspending all state and federal funding to the tribe until it put qualified officials in place to run programs to ensure children are not subjected to physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
Tribal Chairman Roger Yankton has cited staff turnover, high caseloads and inadequate federal funding as problems. Tribal leaders who took office a year ago insist they are making improvements.
Former Sen. Byron Dorgan, chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee until his retirement in 2010, said funding constraints and overworked staffers also cut into the system's effectiveness.