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The Presidential Task Force on Protecting Native American Children in the Indian Health Service System (Task Force) convened in Montana, from June 11 to 13, for its third meeting.

On Tuesday, June 11, the Task Force met with Tim Davis, Tribal Chairman of the Blackfeet Nation, about institutional vulnerabilities in Indian Country healthcare services. The Task Force also met with a special agent from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Justice Services, regarding jurisdictional challenges and investigative processes that occur when a suspected child abuse is reported.  On Wednesday, June 12, the Task Force visited with health officials at the Blackfeet Community Hospital—the reservation’s primary health facility operated by the Indian Health Services.  The Task Force continued its focus on the Indian Health Service (IHS) culture, along with its protocols and practices, branding, recruitment, retention of quality healthcare professionals, employee familiarity with mandatory reporting requirements, and means of reporting child abuse, among other topics.

On Thursday, June 13, the Task Force traveled to Great Falls, Montana, to meet at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.  Their agenda included a highly informative meeting with the area multi-disciplinary team, which focuses on crimes against Native American children, and is comprised of law enforcement agents, prosecutors, victim services, and healthcare officials.

At the conclusion of its third meeting, the Task Force designated individual members to conduct follow-up inquiries in the coming weeks and to begin developing policy recommendations for the final report to the President.

The President announced the formation of the Task Force in March 2019 and charged it with examining institutional and systemic factors that may have contributed to the failure to prevent the predatory abuse of Native American children in the care of the IHS.  The Task Force is working to develop and recommend policies, protocols, and best practices to protect Native American children in the IHS system.

The Task Force is co-chaired by Joseph Grogan, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, and Trent Shores, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma and a citizen of the Choctaw Nation.  The Task Force relies on the multi-disciplinary expertise and experiences of Task Force members; draws on additional Federal employees and Federal resources; and seeks the perspective of and engages with tribal leaders and Native Americans.

Please note: This Task Force’s focus is separate and distinguishable from other investigations into the IHS.  Specifically, the work of the Task Force will not interfere with: (1) the criminal investigation of one particular pediatrician; (2) a review underway at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including a review by the Department’s Inspector General, which HHS Secretary Azar ordered earlier this year; or (3) a review conducted by an outside, independent contractor retained by IHS.