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                                                        Calendar No. 79
114th Congress       }                       {           Report
 1st Session         }                       {           114-39


                  May 11, 2015.--Ordered to be printed


          Mr. Barrasso, from the Committee on Indian Affairs, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 246]

    The Committee on Indian Affairs, to which was referred the 
bill (S. 246) to establish the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter 
Soboleff Commission on Native Children, and for other purposes, 
having considered the same, reports favorably thereon with an 
amendment and recommends that the bill, as amended, do pass.


    The purpose of S. 246 is to establish the Alyce Spotted 
Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children in the 
Office of Tribal Justice within the Department of Justice. The 
Commission would conduct a comprehensive study on Federal, 
state, local, and tribal programs that serve Native children. 
Using the results from the study, the Commission would submit a 
report to Congress and the President on how to improve the 
programs studied.


    The Federal government has a trust responsibility to 
provide for the education, health, and safety of Indian 
children. Yet, Native children are the most at-risk population 
in the country, facing significant disparities in these areas.
    For example, the National Indian Child Welfare Association 
(NICWA) reports that Indian children are overrepresented in 
foster care--at more than 2.1 times the general population. 
Indian children have the third highest rate of victimization at 
11.6 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity.\1\ 
According to NICWA, in 2009, 7,335 Indian children were victims 
of child maltreatment.
    \1\U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for 
Children and Families, Child Welfare Outcomes 2008-2011 Report to 
(last visited on Feb. 26, 2015).
    Another challenge for Native youth is substance abuse. 
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.9 
percent of Indian youth ages 12 and older report alcohol use, 
18.4 percent report binge drinking and 16.0 percent report 
substance abuse or dependence. In the same group, 35.8 percent 
report tobacco use and 12.5 percent report illicit drug use.
    One indicator for the health of a community is mortality 
rates. The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family 
Statistics found that Indian infants experience higher infant 
mortality rates than those of other racial or ethnic groups. 
For example, in 2009, the rate of infant mortality for Indian 
babies was 8.5 per 1,000 live births. That figure is higher 
than the rates among White, non-Hispanic (5.3 per 1,000 live 
births), Hispanic (5.3 per 1,000 live births), and Asian or 
Pacific Islander (4.4 per 1,000 live births) infants.\2\
    \2\Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 
America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013, http:/
/ (last visited on Mar. 6, 
    Under- or unemployment and poverty are more pervasive 
problems among Indian families than other populations. The 
Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT--State Trends in Child 
Well-Being 2013 Data Book reported that 37 percent of Indian 
children live in poverty compared with 14 percent of non-
Hispanic white children.\3\ It further reported that 51 percent 
of Indian children's parents lack secure employment as defined 
by full-time, year-round employment compared with 25 percent of 
non-Hispanic white children and 39 percent of Latino children.
    \3\The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Kids Count 2013 Data Book--State 
Trends in Child Well-Being,
2013KIDSCOUNTDataBook.pdf (last visited on Mar. 6, 2015).
    Indian teens have considerably higher rates of being 
neither in school or working than their non-Hispanic or Asian 
or Pacific Islander counterparts. Fifteen percent of Indian 
teens are not in school and not working. Fifty-eight percent of 
3 and 4 year-old Indian children were not attending any form of 
pre-school compared with 50 percent of African-American and 
Asian and Pacific Islander children.
    Each of these studies indicates that Native youth 
experience significantly more challenges in virtually every 
aspect of their development, from birth to adolescence than any 
other population. However, it is most troubling that these 
youth face a higher risk and rate of premature death than other 
youth. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services 
Administration reports that suicide is the second leading cause 
of death--2.5 times the national rate--for Indian youth in the 
15 to 24 age group.
    Indian tribal governments face numerous obstacles in 
responding to the needs of Native children. Insufficient access 
to current grant opportunities, due to cumbersome bureaucracy 
and associated costs, slows the efforts of Indian tribes to 
tackle these issues. Federal agencies lack clear implementation 
plans, training and technical assistance for tribes and tribal 
governments, and coordinated efforts to best address the needs 
of Native children.
    The Commission proposed by S. 246 is named in honor of two 
tribal leaders. The first is Alyce Spotted Bear, a former 
tribal chairwoman of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation in 
North Dakota, a passionate advocate for Native children, and a 
recognized leader in education. The second is Walter Soboleff, 
a Tlingit from Alaska, a noted educator, a cultural and 
traditional historian, a religious leader for Alaska Native 
people, and the first Alaska Native Chairman of the Alaska 
State Board of Education.
    Protecting Native children and providing safe and 
supportive communities has been a top priority identified by 
tribal leaders to this Committee. Yet, the lack of sufficient 
coordinated research on the full scope of the causes, existing 
issues and challenges inhibits the Federal and tribal 
governments from developing appropriate, tailored programs to 
deliver the most efficient and targeted services to these 
    The collection, development, and evaluation of appropriate 
data is fundamental to a comprehensive assessment of the needs 
of Native children who may be rendered even more vulnerable by 
the misplaced or chronic underfunding of programs for Indian 
Country due to the lack of data. This bill would establish a 
Commission to facilitate such an assessment.
    Finding the best methods of developing and coordinating the 
service delivery systems for Native children would be a central 
mission of the Commission. The intent of S. 246 and goal of the 
Commission is to develop recommendations to address the unique 
needs of Native children and to create safeguards for 
protecting these children. The Commission's work is intended to 
strengthen the efforts of other workgroups evaluating Native 
children's needs, such as the Attorney General's Task Force on 
American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence.
    The Commission proposed by S. 246 would develop 
recommendations and issue a report on the necessary 
modifications and improvements to programs at Federal, state, 
and tribal levels. These recommendations are intended to 
identify improvements to child welfare systems in which Native 
children are involved, the mental and physical health systems 
serving Native children, and the educational systems that 
foster the academic achievement of Native students.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    The bill, S. 246, was introduced on January 22, 2015, by 
Senators Heitkamp and Murkowski with 23 co-sponsors: Senators 
Baldwin, Blumenthal, Boxer, Cantwell, Collins, Feinstein, 
Fischer, Franken, Heinrich, Hirono, Hoeven, Inhofe, Klobuchar, 
Moran, Murray, Schatz, Shaheen, Stabenow, Tester, Thune, Udall, 
Warren, and Whitehouse.
    The bill was referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs. 
No hearing was held on the legislation this Congress. On 
February 4, 2015, the Committee held a business meeting to 
consider the bill. One amendment was offered and adopted. The 
bill, as amended, was ordered to be reported favorably to the 
    In the 113th Congress, Senators Heitkamp and Murkowski 
introduced S. 1622, the predecessor bill, on October 30, 2013 
with 33 co-sponsors. The Committee held a hearing on the bill 
on April 2, 2014 where the Administration testified in support 
of the bill. The Committee held a business meeting on May 21, 
2014 and ordered the bill, with an amendment, to be reported 
favorably. A substitute amendment was later offered for Senate 
consideration. The bill did not pass the Senate. The current 
bill, S. 246, includes the changes incorporated in the 
substitute amendment from the 113th Congress.


Section 1--Short title

    This section states that the short title of the bill is the 
``Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native 
Children Act.''

Section 2--Findings

    This section sets forth the findings of Congress.
    The United States has a distinct legal, treaty, and trust 
obligation to provide for the education, health care, safety, 
social welfare, and other needs of Native children. Chronic 
underfunding of Federal programs to fulfill the longstanding 
Federal trust obligation has resulted in limited access to 
critical services for the more than 2,100,000 Native children 
under the age of 24 living in the United States.
    Native children are the most at-risk population in the 
United States, confronting serious disparities in education, 
health, and safety, with 37 percent living in poverty and 
seventeen percent have no health insurance coverage.
    Child mortality has increased 15 percent among Native 
children aged 1 to 14, while the overall rate of child 
mortality in the United States decreased by 9 percent. Suicide 
is the second leading cause of death in Native children aged 15 
through 24, 2.5 times the national average, and violence, 
including intentional injuries, homicide, and suicide, account 
for 75 percent of the deaths of Native children aged 12 through 
    Fifty-eight percent of 3- and 4-year-old Native children 
are not attending any form of preschool while 15 percent of 
Native children are not in school and not working. The 
graduation rate for Native high school students is 50 percent.
    Approximately 22.9 percent of Native children aged 12 and 
older report alcohol use, 16 percent report substance 
dependence or abuse, 35.8 percent report tobacco use, and 12.5 
percent report illicit drug use.
    Native children disproportionately enter foster care at a 
rate more than 2.1 times the general population and have the 
third highest rate of victimization.
    There is no resource that is more vital to the continued 
existence and integrity of Native communities than Native 
children. The United States has a direct interest, as trustee, 
in protecting Native children.

Section 3--Definitions

    This section sets forth definitions:
    ``Commission'' means the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter 
Soboleff Commission on Native Children established by section 
    ``Indian'' means a person who is a member of an Indian 
tribe, as defined by section 4 of the Indian Self-Determination 
and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. Sec.  450b);
    ``Indian tribe'' means any Indian tribe, band, nation, or 
other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native 
village or regional or village corporation, as defined in or 
established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act 
(43 U.S.C. Sec. 1601 et seq., 85 Stat. 688), which is 
recognized as eligible for the special programs and services 
provided by the United States to Indians because of their 
status as Indians, as defined by section 4 of the Indian Self-
Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. Sec.  
    ``Native child'' means: (A) an Indian child is any 
unmarried person who is under age eighteen and is either (a) a 
member of an Indian tribe or (b) is eligible for membership in 
an Indian tribe and is the biological child of a member of an 
Indian tribe, as defined by section 4 of the Indian Child 
Welfare Act of 1978 (25 U.S.C. Sec.  1903), (B) an Indian who 
is between the ages of 18 and 24 years old, and (C) a Native 
Hawaiian who is not older than 24 years old;
    ``Native Hawaiian'' means any individual who is: (A) a 
citizen of the United States; and (B) a descendant of the 
aboriginal people who, prior to 1778, occupied and exercised 
sovereignty in the area that now comprises the State of Hawaii, 
as evidenced by--(i) genealogical records, (ii) Kupuna (elders) 
or Kamaaina (long-term community residents) verification; or 
(iii) certified birth records, as defined by section 7207 of 
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 
Sec.  7517);
    ``Secretary'' means the Secretary of the Interior; and
    ``Tribal College or University'' means an institution that: 
(A) qualifies for funding under the Tribally Controlled 
Colleges and Universities Assistance Act of 1978 (25 U.S.C. 
Sec.  1802 et seq.) or the Navajo Community College Act (25 
U.S.C. 640a); or (B) is cited in section 532 of the Equity in 
Education Land-Grant Status Act of 1994 (7 U.S.C. Sec.  301 
note), as defined by section 316(b) of the Higher Education Act 
of 1965 (20 U.S.C. Sec.  1059c(b)).

Section 4--Commission on Native children

    Section 4(a) establishes the Commission in the Office of 
Tribal Justice within the Department of Justice.
    Section 4(b)(1) provides that there shall be eleven members 
to the Commission. Three members would be appointed by the 
President in consultation with the Attorney General and the 
Secretaries of the Interior, Education, and Health and Human 
    Three members would be appointed by the Speaker of the 
House in consultation with the Chairman of the House Committee 
on Natural Resources. Another three would be appointed by the 
Majority Leader of the Senate, in consultation with the 
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Finally, 
the Minority Leaders of the House and Senate would each appoint 
one member, in consultation with the Ranking Member of the 
House Committee on Natural Resources and the Vice Chairman of 
the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, respectively.
    Section 4(b)(2) determines the requirements for eligibility 
for Commission members. Each member is required to have 
expertise and experience in Indian affairs and matters to be 
studied by the Commission. One member shall be an expert on 
Native children, and one member is required to have expertise 
in social science research or statistics.
    Section 4(b)(3) delineates the term of appointment for each 
commissioner, which is the life of the Commission, with any 
vacancy being filled in the same manner in which the original 
appointment was made.
    Section 4(c) establishes that the commissioners shall 
choose their own chairperson. The chairperson will call the 
initial meeting within thirty days following the appointment of 
all commissioners, and that, with a quorum of commissioners set 
at a majority, the Commission shall determine its own rules.
    Section 4(d) provides for the mandatory creation of a 
Native Advisory Committee (NAC) composed of one representative 
of an Indian tribe from each of the Bureau of Indian Affairs 
regions and one Native Hawaiian. Each member of the NAC must be 
25 years of age or older and have experience in matters 
relating to the Commission's study. The NAC will provide advice 
and recommendations to the Commission as the Commission deems 
necessary. Furthermore, the NAC will have a Native Children 
subcommittee consisting of at least one member from each of the 
Bureau of Indian Affairs' regions and a Native Hawaiian, each 
of whom shall be a Native child who has experience serving on 
the council of a tribal, regional, or national youth 
    Section 4(e)(1) sets forth the requirement that the 
Commission produce a comprehensive study of Federal, state, 
local, and tribal programs that serve Native children. That 
report shall include evaluations of concurrent jurisdiction of 
child welfare systems, barriers in applying for public and 
private grants, obstacles to obtaining nongovernmental support, 
issues relating to data collection, barriers to developing 
sustainable, multidisciplinary programs to assist high-risk 
Natives and their families, and barriers to interagency 
    Section 4(e)(2) determines that, in order to prevent 
duplication, the Commission must collaborate with other 
workgroups focused on similar issues, such as the Task Force on 
American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence of 
the Attorney General. In addition, to the extent practicable, 
the Commission is to use available technology to reduce travel 
and other costs.
    Section 4(e)(3) requires the Commission to develop goals, 
and plans for achieving those goals, for Federal policy 
relating to Native children in the short-, mid-, and long-term, 
which shall be informed by the development of accurate child 
well-being measures.
    In addition, the Commission is to make recommendations on 
necessary modifications and improvements to programs that serve 
Native children at the Federal, state, and tribal levels that 
integrate the cultural strengths of the communities of the 
Native children and will result in the following key 
          (i) improvements to the child welfare system;
          (ii) improvements to the mental and physical health 
        of Native children, taking into consideration the rates 
        of suicide, substance abuse, and access to nutrition 
        and health care;
          (iii) improvements to educational and vocational 
        opportunities for Native children;
          (iv) improved policies and practices by local school 
        districts that would result in increased academic 
        proficiency for Native children;
          (v) increased access to extracurricular activities 
        for Native children that are designed to increase self-
        esteem, promote community engagement, and support 
        academic excellence while also serving to prevent 
        unplanned pregnancy, membership in gangs, drug and 
        alcohol abuse, and suicide, including activities that 
        incorporate traditional language and cultural practices 
        of Indians and Native Hawaiians;
          (vi) improvements to Federal, state, and tribal 
        juvenile detention programs;
          (vii) expanded access to a continuum of early 
        development and learning services for Native children 
        from prenatal to age five that are culturally 
        competent, support Native language preservation, and 
        comprehensively promote the health, wellbeing, 
        learning, and development of Native children; (viii) 
        the development of a system that delivers wrap-around 
        services to Native children in a way that is 
        comprehensive and sustainable, including through 
        increased coordination among Indian tribes, schools, 
        law enforcement, health care providers, social workers, 
        and families;
          (ix) more flexible use of existing Federal programs; 
          (x) solutions to other issues that, as determined by 
        the Commission, would improve the health, safety, and 
        well-being of Native children.
    The Commission is also required to make recommendations on 
improving data collection and sharing.
    Section 4(f) requires the Commission to issue a report to 
the Congress, the President, and the White House Council on 
Native American Affairs on its findings and recommendations for 
legislative and administrative actions. The report is due no 
later than three years after which all commissioners are 
appointed and funds are made available to carry out the 
requirements of the Act.
    Section 4(g) establishes the powers of the Commission to 
hold not less than five hearings, which shall be public, and 
that witness expenses shall be provided for as under section 
1821 of title 28, United States Code. Federal agencies must 
provide information to the Commission as requested, but state 
and tribal authorities are not so required. Use of the postal 
services shall be the same as for other Federal departments and 
gifts may be accepted and used as they relate to the purpose of 
the Commission.
    Section 4(h) determines that the travel expenses of 
commissioners shall be at the same rates as under title 5, 
chapter 57, subchapter I of the United States Code, as are 
allowed for federal employees. Federal detailees may be used by 
the Commission upon approval by a two-thirds vote of the 
commissioners and by the respective agency head. Detailees 
shall suffer no impairment of their civil service status due to 
their detail. Further, the Attorney General shall provide 
physical space and on a reimbursable basis and supplies to the 
Commission as may be necessary to carry out its work. No 
commissioner, member of NAC, nor member of the Native Children 
Subcommittee shall be considered a Federal employee.
    Section 4(i) provides that the Commission shall terminate 
ninety days after the submission of its report.
    Section 4(j) prevents the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 
U.S.C. App.) from applying to the Commission.
    Section 4(k) prevents the recognition or establishment of a 
government-to-government relationship with any entity not 
recognized on or before the date of enactment of the Act by the 
Federal government through an Act of Congress, Executive 
action, judicial decree, or any other action; or any entity not 
included in the list of Federally Recognized Indian Tribes, as 
determined in 25 U.S.C. 479a et seq. The amount of $2,000,000 
is authorized to be appropriated to carry out the Act.


    The following cost estimate, as provided by the 
Congressional Budget Office, dated February 10, 2015, was 
prepared for S. 246.

                                                 February 10, 2015.
Hon. John Barrasso,
Chairman, Committee on Indian Affairs,
United States Senate, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for S. 246, the Alyce 
Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children 
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Martin von 
                                              Douglas W. Elmendorf.

S. 246--Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native 
        Children Act

    S. 246 would establish the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter 
Soboleff Commission on Native Children in the Office of Tribal 
Justice of the Department of Justice. The 11-member commission 
would be tasked with completing a study of federal and 
nonfederal programs that serve Native American children. Under 
the bill, the commission would use the results of the study to 
develop plans and recommendations to improve those programs. 
The commission would submit a report on those recommendations 
to the Congress and the President within three years of the 
formation of the commission. S. 246 also would allow the 
commission to use staff detailed from other federal agencies to 
complete its work and reimburse commission members for 
traveling expenses. The legislation would authorize the 
appropriation of $2 million to establish and run the 
    Based on the costs of similar commissions, CBO estimates 
that implementing the legislation would cost about $2 million 
over the 2015-2020 period, subject to appropriation of the 
necessary amounts. Under the bill, amounts would be used to pay 
for travel expenses, fees for witnesses, and preparing the 
commission's report. CBO estimates that any costs for employees 
detailed from other agencies to work for the commission would 
not be significant.
    Enacting S. 246 would affect direct spending because it 
would authorize the new commission to accept and spend gifts; 
therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. However, CBO 
estimates that the net effect of that provision on direct 
spending would be insignificant. Enacting S. 246 would not 
affect revenues.
    S. 246 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Martin von 
Gnechten. The estimate was approved by Theresa Gullo, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.


    Paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the Standing Rules of the 
Senate requires each report accompanying a bill to evaluate the 
regulatory and paperwork impact that would be incurred in 
carrying out the bill. The Committee believes that S. 246 will 
have a minimal impact on regulatory or paperwork requirements.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    The Committee has not received any Executive Communications 
from the Executive Branch regarding S. 246.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with subsection 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee finds that the 
enactment of S. 246 will not make any changes to existing law.