Cherokee subsidy program helps parents go to work

By Christina Good Voice Staff Writer TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation employee Jennifer Hughes works full time during the day and is a full-time college student at night. As a single mother, she would not be able to do that because of expensive child care costs if not for the CN Child Care and Development Subsidy Program. The program falls under the CN Child Care Resource Center and pays between $375,000 and $400,000 a month in child care payments. Hughes’ son Kierian and more than 1,700 children are able to attend day care because their parents qualify for the program, which has eligibility requirements and a sliding fee scale based on income. Child Care and Development subsidy manager Leah Duncan said the program is vital to many parents. “Many clients have informed me that without the assistance from Cherokee Nation in paying for child care assistance they would not be able to continue their educational goals and/or maintain employment,” Duncan said. “Therefore I think the Cherokee Nation Subsidy Program is very important in assisting families in meeting their goals.”  Most parents use the program because they work. But Laurie Hand, director of the Child Care and Development Center, said parents can also get subsidies to attend school – high school through graduate school – and job training programs. The program calls for a parent such as Hughes to make a copayment to a child care provider each month while the subsidy pays the other portion. “I'm a single mother, and if it wasn’t for the program I would not be able to afford to pay the entire amount for child care,” Hughes said. “If I was not able to get assistance I probably would have to stay at home with my child and not work.” The program, which serves the entire CN jurisdiction, also allows relatives to be child care providers, according to federal guidelines. However, those relatives have to be grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles or adult siblings not living in the home of the child who needs care. Great aunts and uncles do not qualify. “We can provide assistance for families whose children are cared for in licensed child care centers and homes and also in relative settings,” Hand said. Relatives are also required to be registered with the Child Care Resource Center, and must go through a registration process before beginning child care and receiving payment. The Child Care Resource Center also maintains contracts with certain child care facilities and child care homes. If a parent is interested in sending their child to a center that’s not contracted with the CN, the center can contact the Child Care Resource Center about contracting so that the child may attend. The subsidy program has full-time offices in Catoosa, Sallisaw, Stilwell and Tahlequah and staff members make monthly visits to sites in Muskogee, Bartlesville and Jay. To apply, clients need to fill out an application, submit copies of Certificate Degree of Indian Blood and tribal citizenship cards, work schedules if employed, school schedules if attending school, letters from employers verifying rate of pay, how often paid and work schedule, birth certificates of children intended to attend child care, address verification and have chosen a child care provider. “I believe that if this program didn’t exist there would be a lot of parents who wouldn’t be able to go to work or school,” Hughes said. “A lot of people just could not afford to pay the entire amount for childcare. I believe that there are a lot of families in this situation.” Reach Staff Writer Christina Good Voice at (918) 207-3825 or
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