CN 2018 LIHEAP grant app up for public review

BY STAFF REPORTS
08/13/2017 02:00 PM
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.

Services

BY STAFF REPORTS
08/11/2017 04:00 PM
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.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
News Writer – @cp_bbennett
08/11/2017 08:45 AM
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>.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
08/10/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation have formed a medical legal partnership to offer certain civil legal help to Native American citizens in the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. Michael Figgins, LASO executive director, said the partnership began after LASO approached the tribe regarding the AmeriCorps’ Partnering for Native Health Grant. “This special program came up through AmeriCorps, and we’re part of a consortium with six other states. It’s all tribes doing medical legal partnerships, one big AmeriCorps grant and we were awarded,” he said. “When Legal Aid approached Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Nation was very responsive. We talked about it in the past, and I’m pretty sure that Cherokee Nation saw the value of having the medical legal partnership.” Laci Klinger, managing attorney for LASO in the Tahlequah area, said the idea is to help those who are in poverty by providing legal aid to help alleviate medical needs or issues. “The ideal behind this grant is if we can assist with some of the barriers that indigent people, people in poverty, are facing then it will help with some of the medical issues that they are facing,” she said. “It will help curb some of those benefits. The disparities that they’re facing in society that often lead to the medical issues such as housing issues or benefits issues.” Some of the legal aid offered is end-of-life planning, estate planning, power of attorney and any type of benefit assistance such as Social Security benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicare and Medicaid. Klinger said end-of-life planning and guardianship assistance is for seniors 60 and over, and benefits assistance is available for people of any age. To receive services, clients “must be receiving medical services” and be “referred” by the facility from which they receive those services. With the grant’s help, Klinger said the offered services are free. “The biggest part with just getting it off the ground is just letting people know what we’re doing, and I think that’s the biggest obstacle that we face is just for people to understand what we’re doing,” she said. “We did a will’s clinic with (W.W.) Hastings (Hospital)…and we had about 50 seniors show up at our office one afternoon, so I know that there is a huge need. So it’s just accessing the people and letting them know that it truly is free. Oftentimes people are skeptical about that and they’re like, ‘what’s the catch?’ There is no catch. It truly is free. We truly are a nonprofit and we do not take money from people.” Klinger said two attorneys and a paralegal visit health clinics and hospitals within Craig, Delaware, Ottawa, Cherokee, Adair, Sequoyah and Wagner counties to offer legal aid services to those who are eligible. “The idea is for them to go out into these various communities that have Indian clinics or hospitals to meet with people,” she said. “They’re setting up clinics to take in-take, to give legal advice and to see what legal needs we can meet that are civil legal needs.” Klinger said help for those seeking services outside the grant’s realm could be provided through LASO’s other opportunities. “Even though this particular grant is limited to the estate planning aspects and the benefits assistance, that doesn’t mean that if we help a family with benefits assistance and we identify other legal needs that we’re not going to help with that as well,” she said. “So if we identify a family that, ‘ok, this mom might need benefits assistance but she also might need to separate from an abuser’ then we’re going to move her to a different grant and we’re going to assist her.” Klinger said the nonprofit has been in the state for approximately 50 years, and she’s “excited” to have this opportunity to help Natives in the area. “We haven’t had anything designated just for tribal members before and this is a specific designation just for tribal members. So it’s pretty exciting,” she said. The LASO Tahlequah office is located at 224 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, call 918-708-1150 or 1-888-993-2615.
BY CHANDLER KIDD
Intern
08/07/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – For the Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare, ensuring children’s safety is its essential job component. And to do that, ICW has about 120 employees at five locations who follow specific protocols. Charla Miller, ICW program manager and Child Protective Services intake, said ICW acts quickly once a call is received regarding a possibly endangered Cherokee child. Miller, a CPS intake for 16 years, said although ICW receives the same guidelines as state child agencies, it approaches situations differently. “We are Native people working with Native children and families. We understand, and we try to, as best as we can, honor their culture and traditions while maintaining the safety of children. Sometimes you don’t receive that on the state side,” she said. ICW receives referrals from throughout the United States, but most are from the 14 counties in the tribe’s jurisdiction, she said. “We treat all of our referrals as an emergency. We don’t delay going out or initiating them. At the beginning it is just an allegation, but we still treat each case quickly,” Miller said. “From the onset of when we do an investigation to determine if the child is safe or not happens within a day.” Once a call is received and a child is in known danger, an ICW investigator is assigned and begins making contact with the child. After contact, the investigator interviews the child and the family. Miller said the investigators ask questions to determine every child’s safety and have to make quick determinations about a child’s safety because ICW will not speculate about a child’s safety. “We do make efforts to prevent removal because...removal is not part of our goal,” she said. Although the process is fast, ICW undergoes many checks and balances to provide approval for removal from the home. Once a worker calls Miller, she consults with the ICW executive director to decide if it is an emergency situation. “If the executive director does approve, we go to the next level of approval, which is the (CN) attorney general’s office. If approval is given, we contact our tribal court judge and ask for removal,” she said. During the first 48 hours, ICW staff members work without leaving the scene and work through checks and balances to be certain the case is on the right track. Miller said during this time ICW is investigating, looking for placement, purchasing items needed by the child and scheduling parental visits. “It is almost five days of little sleep, no lunch and no breaks. It is just full on. We are hands on with our children by being back in the home or placement within three days,” she said “Our ultimate goal is always reunification. We transport our parents back and forth to court if we need to.” ICW has cases assigned to four investigators who cover the tribe’s jurisdiction. Assignments may include covering Claremore Indian Hospital, W.W. Hastings Hospital, health care clinics on tribal land, Cherokee Heights in Pryor, the Birdtail Housing Addition in Tahlequah and individual allotment lands under ICW responsibility. Miller said being familiar with tribal land ensures that referrals aren’t going unnoticed. “We have to look at an address and say, ‘I think I know where that area is at and it could be tribal land.’ We constantly are verifying to make sure we aren’t missing referrals that come through.” Because it doesn’t have the high numbers of cases like the state’s Department of Human Services, ICW can focus on the problem’s source and try to fix it for each family. Miller said ICW always has the best interest of Cherokee families in mind. “We aren’t just running in and running out trying to make a fix. We truly try to get to the bottom of what is happening. Nobody knows our families better than we do because we are their tribe,” Miller said. “Nobody can have more care and concern about how our children are raised than us.” As of publication, nearly 80 children were in ICW care with most being in 45 foster homes. Each year, ICW works on roughly 1,400 cases. For more information about CN ICW, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeekids.org/" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeekids.org/</a>.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
08/03/2017 02:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizens, administrators, Tribal Councilors and representatives from several CN programs attended “Cherokee Nation Night” at ONEOK field on July 28 to see the Tulsa Drillers baseball team play the Arkansas Travelers. Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., who threw out the first pitch, said the event is not only fun but also important because it brings awareness and access to CN programs to Cherokees in Oklahoma’s second-largest city. “This is a sponsorship. Cherokee Nation Businesses sponsored this evening, so it’s an opportunity for employees to come out and get some free tickets to the game, but we also offer Cherokee citizens a chance to come out on this beautiful July evening,” he said. “We also have some staff here from some of our programs to show just what Cherokee Nation does for northeast Oklahoma.” The programs and departments in attendance consisted of the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation, Indian Child Welfare, Hunting & Fishing, Talking Leaves Job Corps, Health Services, Tax Commission, Cherokee Phoenix, Education Services, Commerce Services, Cherokee Vote and Career Services. CN citizen Mandy Adair took her family to “Cherokee Nation Night” at the ballpark. “I’m here at ONEOK Field to watch the Drillers play, with my son, my nephew, my brother, my sister-in-law and a couple of friends. My reason for coming was just to catch a great game of baseball with my kiddo and support Cherokee Nation.” Other events for the evening included Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden leading the crowd in the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch and a post game concert by Christian band “Citizen Way.” The Drillers beat the Arkansas Travelers, 6-2.