Tribal Leaders & State Officials Form Commission To Prevent Child Abuse 

A new commission was announced Friday in Augusta that will take a closer look at the abuse suffered by Maine’s Wabanaki children while in the care of the Maine Child Welfare System.Five Wabanaki Chiefs joined Governor LePage in announcing the formation of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a group that will take a look at some of the abuses suffered by Wabanaki kids who were removed from their homes by the state and put into foster care. “They were being forced to separate themselves from their language, their cultural identities, and subjected to horrific abuse,” Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis told the crowd gathered in the Hall of Flags.Denise Altvater was removed from her home and placed in Maine child welfare care, and helped train Maine Department of Human Services workers on complying with a 1978 federal law, the Indian Child Welfare Act, aimed at reducing the high number of Native children being sent to live with non-Native families. “What happened to me and many other Wabanaki people as a result of the past practices of the Maine State Child Welfare system can never be undone,” she told the crowd gathered in Augusta. “The consequences that resulted from our experiences continue today in our own lives, and the lives of our families and our communities.”Governor LePage says some of the stories he’s heard reminded him of his childhood experience and how it could have been worse. “I was homeless at a very young age, and I roamed the streets,” LePage said. “But I roamed the streets of my neighborhood where I was from. Where my friends were from. Where other French people were from.”This collaboration between state government and the tribal leadership is the first of its kind in the country. The 13 member commission will look closely at the abuse that’s happened in the past to make sure steps are taken to keep history from repeating itself. “This effort is really not about blame,” Francis said. “It’s about acknowledgement and moving forward to make sure these things are never repeated. Through education, process and partnerships.”