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Settlements reached in Native American foster care abuse cases against church

By Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 22, 2018 at 5:18 p.m.

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Four Native Americans who claimed they were sexually abused while enrolled in a now-defunct church foster care program decades ago filed paperwork to dismiss their cases after reaching financial settlements, a lawyer said.

Allegations have been made against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by more than a dozen tribal members from the Navajo Nation and Crow Tribe of Montana.

Four cases recently were settled, three were settled last year and others reached agreements out of court. One case remains in Washington state.

The terms of the latest agreements are confidential and include no admission of wrongdoing, said Craig Vernon, an attorney who represented the tribal members.

The cases were filed in Window Rock District Court on the Navajo Nation.

Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, declined comment. He said the settlement agreement prohibits any discussion about the terms.

The first of the lawsuits was filed by two Navajo siblings in 2016 in tribal court.

The lawsuits alleged tribal members were sexually abused between the 1960s and early 1980s in the Indian Student Placement Program, which put thousands of Native American children in foster homes of church members in Utah, Idaho and New Mexico.

The voluntary program, aimed at giving children educational opportunities they didn't have on the reservation, started in the late 1940s and ended around 2000.

The people accused of abuse were associated with host families, not church leaders.

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