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from the Grand Forks Herald, www.grandforksherald.com
October 16, 2012

Grant to provide services to two North Dakota reservations

By Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Children and pregnant women on the Spirit Lake and Turtle Mountain Indian reservations in northeastern North Dakota will receive more home health and other visitation services thanks to a $3.5 million federal grant.

The voluntary programs serve pregnant women and children under the age of two through home visits from nurses, social workers, mental health specialists and others, Tim Hathaway, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota, told the Grand Forks Herald (http://bit.ly/Wj2ZDh ).

Hathaway's organization was the lead agency in securing the federal grant. It worked with Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, the Center for Social Research at North Dakota State University and the Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association.

The federal funding had been made available last year through the state Health Department, but it was cut from the governor's budget after some legislators objected it would commit the state to future spending.

Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota and other organizations then applied directly for the federal grant.

"I've spoken with a number of legislators about the project," Hathaway said. "I think we have good support moving forward."

Hathaway said the project's goal is to serve about 150 families in high-poverty areas in the first year, expanding eventually to 250 families.

A North Dakota Health Department assessment three years ago identified Benson and Rolette counties, home to the Spirit Lake Sioux and Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, as areas most in need of such services.

"There are other counties in the state with significant needs, and we'd love to expand these services if additional funds are released," Hathaway said.

Spirit Lake has been under severe scrutiny this year following allegations of widespread problems in the tribe's child welfare programs, some of which were taken over Oct. 1 by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Hathaway said Spirit Lake tribal officials were involved in preparing the grant application. "They've been working with us shoulder to shoulder," he said.

Research shows that home visitation programs strengthen families and reduce early childhood abuse and neglect by as much as 50 percent, Hathaway said.

In a written statement, Merle St. Claire, chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, said the home visitation program "is a true gift that we appreciate and value as a tribe."

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