Legislation Would Ensure Equal Treatment for Michigan's Native Children, Guardians
March 3, 2023
LANSING, Mich.- Two state Senators in Michigan have introduced bipartisan legislation that would ensure Native American children can benefit from guardianship assistance, including permanent placement with guardians instead of temporary foster care.
The bills, introduced Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Sen. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs), would fix a "fundamentally unfair situation" in the state's Guardianship Assistance Program (GAP), according to Irwin. Currently, children with guardianship orders from tribal courts or out-of-state courts do not qualify for assistance through GAP.
"We know of at least 10 Sault Tribe families and many other Native families from around the state who have been impacted by the current laws on Guardianship Assistance Program benefits because their cases involve a tribal rather than a state court," Austin Lowes, chairman of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, said in a statement. "When this happens, children have to remain in unfamiliar foster homes rather than in the home of a close relative, and those foster families may not uphold tribal cultures or customs."