November | December 2014

Message From the Administrator

Hello. I’m Bob Listenbee, Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

As we reflect on all we are grateful for this holiday season and year, I am thankful to many people across our great nation for their efforts and successes on behalf of our children. Together, we have accomplished a lot but, we cannot sit back and rest. Far too many children remain in great need.

Just last month, the Attorney General Eric Holder’s Advisory Committee on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence released its final report and recommendations for helping children in Indian country.

The American Indian and Alaska Native people are blessed with a rich heritage filled with respect and honor for others—yet, violence is destroying many of their families. Studies show that adolescent American Indian and Alaska Natives have a death rate 2 to 5 times the rate of Whites in the same age group. Studies also show that suicide is the second leading cause of death, 2.5 times the rate for American Indian/Alaska Native youth in the 15–24 year-old-age group.

The advisory committee’s report is a culmination of research and information gathered at public hearings attended by over 600 people from more than 62 tribes and 15 states. The scars of the historical trauma that Native Americans have endured are evident. The stories told by Native leaders and children were heart-breaking, the statistics are saddening, but there is real potential for change.

Increased funding and commitment to programs that help Native Americans, such as housing, law enforcement, child welfare, health care, education, and juvenile justice, are essential. Easy access to culturally appropriate services, treatment, and care is critical. Children can heal if we apply the science of trauma-informed care, developmentally based approaches, and evidence-based practices, but, if we are to accomplish real reform, we need to work in partnership with tribal leaders.

In June 2014, President Obama embarked upon his first Presidential visit to Indian country. He and Mrs. Obama visited Standing Rock Reservation where they met with a group of Native youth, who courageously shared their stories of struggle and triumph. After hearing their stories, President Obama challenged his Administration to do more and do better for the young people of Indian country.

Our Office is committed to aggressively pursuing the solutions that will reverse the trend of violence, bring about healing, and ensure that every child is given the opportunity to thrive. I am reminded of the depth of the crisis and reason for real hope in the words of a song by Joanne Shenandoah, co-chair of the advisory committee and from the Iroquois Nation, which she sang at the meeting where the report was released. "We are sad and lonely. We miss our children of the sky. They sparkle and sometimes hide."

I am encouraged about the opportunities for change. However, we cannot wait. We cannot allow these children to falter any longer.

Thank you.