Cherokee Nation citizen Christopher Wilson, who was formerly incarcerated, works at a service job on Feb. 21 through his job at Lawson Electric Inc. in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Wilson used the CN’s Career Services Coming Home Re-entry Program when he was released from prison in September to obtain a job and get back on his feet. COURTESY
CN helps formerly incarcerated citizens
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Career Services Coming Home Re-entry Program assists formerly incarcerated CN citizens rehabilitate back into society by helping them find jobs and housing.
Daryl Legg, program director, said it began in 2013 and was funded through a donation of $20,000 to help homeless incarcerated Cherokees. Since then the Tribal Council has appropriated a budget to operate the program with $131,000 per year.
“The first two years that we implemented the program, we had…45 (Cherokees) the first year and 55 the second year. Then last year we got 165 (Cherokees),” Legg said.
Those who qualify must be a CN citizen; have served time in prison, not including county jail; provide release documents from the Department of Corrections; and sign up for the program within the first three months of his or her release.
The program helps individuals with reinstating driver’s licenses, provides a $250 stipend to buy professional or work clothing, pays the first month’s rent on housing and provides furniture and other needed items for a home.
Legg said program officials keep in contact with the DOC and prison facilities to provide information so that prisoners know the program is available upon their releases.
“We do try to immediately get them on the (CN) Day Training program so they can start earning $50 a day. Other than that we do vocational training. We also tie into the economic development funds for OJT (On the Job Training) so that we can help them get a job,” Legg said.
Before their releases, most individuals are already receiving “quality apprenticeship-style training” in a trade that they can utilize when released. Legg said prisoners are also getting their GEDs, cognitive behavioral therapy and other help to begin their journey back into society.
He said the CN program boasts a recidivism or re-offend rate of only 10 percent.
Legg said with this type of re-entry program, the CN and other Oklahoma tribes are able to reduce the recidivism rate “beyond the national level,” with the national average being 67 percent and the state average at 27 percent.
Legg said the program’s focus is getting incarcerated citizens jobs that will help motivate them, help them be responsible and take care of their families.
CN citizen Christopher Wilson, who was released from prison in September, used the program and obtained a job a week and a half after his release.
Wilson said while in prison, he acquired his unlimited journeyman’s license in the electrical trade.
“I knew that that was going to help me when I got out with a good-paying job. So I just worked hard and focused on my future for when I got out and that was probably that best thing that I could do while I was in (prison),” Wilson said.
He said the program helped him reinstate his driver’s license, pay his first month’s rent, buy him regular and work clothing and pay $500 to get him the tools he needed.
Wilson now works for Lawson Electric Inc. in Tulsa. He started with a pay rate of $19 per hour and has since earned his first raise.
“It was a big morale boost to know that I had people supporting me and helping me. They saw that I was willing to try and work hard,” he said. “My faith in God, I believe God put these people in my path to help me, and it’s all worked out great.”
Wilson said he encourages anyone who is eligible to take advantage of the program.
“I encourage anyone getting out that’s serious about making it to take advantage of this program and really use it to get their life straight. It’s a great hand up when you first get out,” Wilson said.
For more information, call 918-207-3832.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Career Services’ Day Training program helps Cherokees with temporary job placement and training that could potentially result in permanent employment. And because of an influx of applicants during the holiday season, the program will not take applications until the autumn of each year, with the exception of special circumstances.
“We realized that we have a need for people more in the late fall during the holiday season, so that they can get that money to get over that hump. So a lot of them are without jobs, they’re without training. So we decided that we would start actually start working on the Day Training program after the Labor Day holiday,” Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley said.
Jonathan Crittenden, Day Training coordinator, said the program has slowed because of participants utilizing newer programs throughout the year such as the Dislocated Worker Program and the Summer Youth Employment Program.
Since it’s inception in 2009, Day Training has helped more than 2,000 participants who have attained employment within the CN or its entities.
The majority of temporary jobs placements take place within the CN and Cherokee Nation Businesses.
The program helps people with little or no job experience, as well as people who have received college degrees or vocational training, to gain work experience through training on the job.
To qualify, one must be a CN citizen, live within the CN jurisdiction, have no income, be at least 18 years old and out of high school.
The program allows participants to train up to 12 weeks and equal a training payment of up to $1,000. The training payment was recently changed from $3,000 per fiscal year to $1,000 per fiscal year to service more clients.
Payouts include $50 per day for 8-hour workdays, $25 for four hours of work or payouts of $100 to $200 for days worked per week.
“Day Training affords them that opportunity to get their foot in the door so that either Health (Services) or Education (Services) or (the) department they land in can actually see whether or not they are somebody that would make a good employee. We’ve been very fortunate here at the Cherokee Nation to have the Day Training program so that it affords those directors the opportunity to see what’s out there, and in a lot of cases those people got picked up,” Kelley said.
Crittenden said the program is a “day-to-day” program of temporary employment but also services higher education students who are looking to complete internships within the CN.
A participant is able to utilize any Career Services program if they qualify. For example, a college graduate who meets the criteria for the SYEP can work at a job in his or her field of study and then shift to the Day Training program to continue gaining work experience until a job opportunity opens.
CN citizen Courtney Cowan is a participant who utilized Day Training and the SYEP and is now a special assistant in Career Services. After graduating college and obtaining a degree in health and human performance, she had trouble attaining employment.
“With all the connections and stuff I’ve made, it’s been amazing. It’s been a blessing for me because I think just around this area it’s really, really hard for people to find jobs. Even with a degree right now people are struggling,” she said.
Kelley said she believes in hiring participants “who make something” of themselves. “If we can’t hire our own people, people that have come through the program that we’ve trained, then what are we even here for? That’s they way we look at it.”
For more information, call 918-453-5555 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The first of two meetings for the Cherokee Nation Elders Summit was held Sept. 26 at the Northeastern State University Ballroom.
Elder Summit coordinator Kamisha Hair-Daniels said this year’s events marked the third year the tribe has hosted summits specifically created to benefit Cherokee elders.
“We feed them, we have a resource fair and we also have presenters who come in and give them useful information regarding identity theft, Medicaid fraud, healthy living and other topics like that,” she said.
Daniels said she’s glad that Cherokee Nation officials decided to hold summits for elders.
“It’s a day to let them know that there’s help out there,” she said.
Daniels said elders are often targeted by scams and can be vulnerable to criminal activity.
“Our elders need the information available to them here,” she said.
CN citizen Russell Feeling, who attended the event in Tahlequah, said he came for several reasons. “I wanted to pick up information here and see what’s available to seniors, but it’s also a chance to see old friends. Fellowship becomes more important the older we get.”
The second meeting of the 2017 Elder Summit was held two days later at the Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs in Claremore. Organizers said holding the summit in Cherokee and Rogers counties cut down the distances elders had to travel to the meetings.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the knowledge available at Elder Summits are crucial to the well-being of aging CN citizens.
“Cherokees have always honored and revered our elders. Bringing them here to let them know what services are available, how we can help, what we’re doing, giving them updates along with feeding them a good meal is extremely important,” Baker said.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Senior Services is once again taking applications for its Elder Angel Tree.
This program is for seniors 60 and older who have little or no family and will not receive a gift without the program. It is for CN citizens and their spouses or widows.
Applications must be completed with a family or elder advocate and be turned in by Oct. 31.
Elder Angels will be available for adoption Nov. 1 - 17 and gifts will be delivered in December.
For more information, call Crystal Thomas at 918-453-5627, Rachelle Singleterry at 918-453-5694 or Juanita Bark at 918-253-4219.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to a Cherokee Nation Communications press release, the tribe’s fiscal year 2018 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program grant application will be available for public review at the tribe’s W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex and field offices.
A draft plan copy will be available for review Aug. 21-22. During the review process, the public is encouraged to submit either written or verbal comments regarding the development of the final draft of the LIHEAP plan.
Anyone unable to review the application at one of the CN locations may request information and submit comments over the phone.
For more information and to submit comments, call 918-453-5150 or 918-453-5327.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Child Support Services recently celebrated the office’s 10th anniversary.
Established in 2007, the Child Support Services office collects on average more than $4 million per year for Cherokee children and families.
Child Support Services Director Kara Whitworth said the program has changed a lot in the past 10 years and now operates with the whole picture in mind.
“When we opened our doors, the goal was focused on providing the basic child support services within our Cherokee communities. But our staff realized that child support is more than just collecting money,” Whitworth said. “It is about ensuring the family members involved in each household we serve are provided information and resources that assist with more than just child support assistance.”
In addition to child support enforcement, Child Support Services staff now assesses each family’s individual needs and makes suggestions on tribal programs or trainings that would be beneficial.
One program offered to participants is a specialized training called CN Building Blocks. The course educates parents on key issues like child support, legal responsibility, communication skills and more.
“Our services go beyond traditional child support. Each caseworker not only gets to know the families, but they assess any other needs they may have that can be addressed by the tribe, like child care subsidy, school clothing assistance and housing assistance,” said Whitworth.
Child Support Services has offices in Catoosa, Jay, Pryor, Sallisaw and Stilwell, with the main office located at 1525 Ketcher St. in Tahlequah.
For more information, call 918-453-5444.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With two new programs, the Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare is expanding its efforts to assist children and reunite Cherokee families.
“What the law requires for an Indian child through the Indian Child Welfare Act is active efforts in order to try and reunite a family,” ICW Executive Director Nikki Baker Limore said. “I tell my workers, ‘we’re going to go to extreme efforts. We’re going to go as far as we can to provide these parents opportunity to reunite with these children.’”
The desire to go above and beyond led ICW officials to apply for two Victims of Crime Act of 1984 grants. The first was approved in September 2016 and used to create the Cherokee Children’s Cultural Connection program, or 4C. In April it began accepting children ages 4 to 18, giving them an educational and cultural foundation to build upon while in foster care and later in life.
Activities include canine and equine therapy, as well as time in a cultural classroom where children complete activities that teach them Cherokee colors, numbers and history.
“What I do is instill Cherokee culture and history into the children that come into our care,” Ruth Shade, ICW parenting paraprofessional, said. “They may not know anything at all, or some that do, they might not know they’re already living it.”
4C has also partnered with The Spider Gallery to provide children art therapy. For children wanting to learn a specific medium, such as bow making or basket weaving, 4C officials will put them in touch with a Cherokee National Treasure to get expert knowledge either in person or via Skype. The program has slow, fast and medium tracks depending on how long ICW workers think the case might take.
“When our children come into our care, sometimes we can really work their case plan, and if they’re only with us a certain amount of time we put them in our classroom and with our horses in equine, and they can do an eight-week course,” Shade said. “If some of our kids stay with us until they actually age out, we can work with them. We can structure the curriculum and therapy around that.”
The second grant created the Safe Babies program, which will begin accepting children from 0 to 3 years old in October.
“We wrote a grant called Safe Babies, and what it does it tries to go over and above to get those parents active in those babies lives because what recent statistics and data will tell you is children zero to 3 (years) do suffer trauma when they’re removed,” Limore said. “They’ve figured out it does just as much damage to small babies as it does to the older children who are able to explain it to you.”
ICW has created an apartment-type setup across the street from its offices with hopes that parents will spend more time with their children and increase the likelihood of reunification.
“Our goal is to have those parents come in and instead of just getting to see their children an hour or two a week, we want them to come in keep them all day while a worker sits right outside the hall,” Limore said. “We’ll help teach them how to care for that child if they’re a new parent, but we hope that instills better bonding and in turn, because they’re better bonded with the child, maybe they’ll work harder on fixing the issues that they have and then the child will thrive.”
Limore said while ICW children receive counseling, most do not get “concentrated services” to help cope with being taken from their homes and hopes the programs will fill the void.
“Through all of our teachings we just hope we instill in them what it is to be Cherokee so they become a stronger person, so they can overcome the trauma they’ve endured,” she said.
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeekids.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeekids.org</a>.