http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee Nation employees walk in support of Indian Child Welfare in May. With about 120 employees, ensuring the safety of Cherokee children is ICW’s primary job and has procedures in place to act quickly once a referral is received about a child possibly in danger in a home. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation employees walk in support of Indian Child Welfare in May. With about 120 employees, ensuring the safety of Cherokee children is ICW’s primary job and has procedures in place to act quickly once a referral is received about a child possibly in danger in a home. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Indian Child Welfare prioritizes tribal families, children

Charla Miller
Charla Miller
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 http://www.cherokeekids.org/.

Services

BY STAFF REPORTS
07/21/2018 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix is now taking names of elders and military veterans to provide free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper. In November, Cherokee Nation Businesses donated $10,000 to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder/Veteran Fund. The fund provides free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper to elders 65 and older and military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens. Subscription rates are $10 for one year. “The Elder/Veteran Fund was put into place to provide free subscriptions to our Cherokee elders and veterans,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Some of our elders and veterans are on a very limited budget, and other items have a priority over buying a newspaper subscription. The donations we receive have a real world impact on our elders and veterans, so every dollar donated to the Elder Fund is significant.” Using the Elder/Veteran Fund, elders who are 65 and older as well as veterans can apply to receive a free one-year subscription by visiting, calling or writing the Cherokee Phoenix office and requesting a subscription. The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. To call about the fund, call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email justin-smith@cherokee.org or joy-rollice@cherokee.org. No income guidelines have been specified for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last. Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder/Veteran Fund donations. The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website, <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeephoenix.org</a>, that posts news seven days a week about the Cherokee government, people, history and events of interest. The monthly newspaper is also posted in PDF format to the website at the beginning of each month.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/16/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is accepting College Housing Assistance Program applications for the fall 2018 semester July 23 through Aug. 3. The CHAP is a Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act-funded program designed to help low-income Native American students secure safe and affordable housing while seeking a first-time bachelor’s degree. Program participants must also maintain full-time student status at an accredited institute of higher education. The CHAP will provide up to 125 students with up to $1,000 per semester for housing costs. Eligible applicants must be a member of a federally recognized tribe and be a resident of the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction. Applicants must also meet NAHASDA income guidelines as well as other eligibility requirements according to the CHAP policy. Priority will be given to CN citizens and students who were served on the program the previous semester. Applications are available at <a href="http://www.hacn.org" target="_blank">www.hacn.org</a> or any HACN office location. For more information, call 918-456-5482.
BY LANI HANSEN
Intern
07/16/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Registration Office stays busy year round receiving, processing and sending out CN citizenship and Certificate Degree Indian Blood cards to applicants. Registration officials said the office receives an average of 1,200 CN citizenship applications per month. For a quicker processing time, Registration staff recommend citizenship applications be made shortly after a child is born. This will give staff time to process the application should any services be requested for the child in the future. All applicants need to complete applications listing their direct lineal ancestors (parent, grandparent) back to a Dawes Roll enrollee. The application process times vary. Some applications may require more or updated information such as correct birth certificates and affidavits, and some applications may not be completed correctly. “If the applicant’s parent is already registered, then we just need an application and birth certificate listing the Indian parent,” Associate Tribal Registrar Justin Godwin said. “If no one in the family has received CDIB (Certificate Degree Indian Blood) card or citizenship (card), then we will need the birth or death certificate beginning with the applicant back to the enrollee.” The birth or death certificate must contain a state seal, state file number and be certified by the state registrar. Officials said six years ago more than 23,000 citizenship applications were pending and another 15,000 CN citizens were awaiting CDIB cards under the previous system. Officials said that backlog is now wiped out and a system is in place to keep pace with the applications submitted. To lower waiting times, officials said the CN added nearly 2,000 square feet to the Registration Office. The department also received a budget increase, which allowed for adding 22 full- and part-time employees. Employee responsibilities were also realigned, officials said, as five operators were assigned to answer applicant questions, and others were assigned to type or process files, address special projects and work on backlogged applications. Officials said Registration’s database application was also updated in 2013 to more efficiently process citizenship and CDIB cards. New processes were also developed to provide employees with documents that had been scanned and filed in an electronic database, officials said. Officials said as a result, citizenship and CDIB applications filed with all necessary documentation can now be processed in as little as one month, compared to previous wait times that often stretched out for two years or more. Applications can be picked up at the Registration Office or printed online at <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Tribal-Citizenship/Downloadable-Forms" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/Services/Tribal-Citizenship/Downloadable-Forms</a>. People may also email a request to registration@cherokee.org, call 918-458-6980 or mail Cherokee Nation, Attn: Tribal Registration, PO Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. Officials said aside from issuing citizenship and CDIB cards, the Registration Office also produces free photo identifications that serve as a dual citizenship and CDIB card. Since 2012, more than 100,000 photo IDs have been issued, officials said. The cards have CN citizenship information on one side and CDIB information on the other.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/13/2018 03:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH – According to a Cherokee Nation press release, the tribe donated a total of $90,000 to six Oklahoma-based domestic violence shelters on July 10. Each shelter received $15,000. Those shelters are Women in Safe Homes Inc., of Muskogee; Safenet Services, of Claremore; Help-In-Crisis, of Tahlequah; Family Crisis Counseling Center, of Bartlesville; Domestic Violence Intervention Services, of Tulsa; and Community Crisis Center Inc., of Miami. “Together, these entities are helping hundreds of domestic violence victims across northeast Oklahoma escape the atmosphere of physical, verbal and emotional abuse,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “All six of these services are doing some fantastic work with the help of their employees and volunteers. There should be no doubt they are committed to breaking the cycle of domestic violence, which is, unfortunately, plaguing Indian Country. I’m proud to say the Cherokee Nation is supportive of their mission.” Safenet Services operates a 35-bed center for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. Among the key services offered by Safenet is an intervention program for those accused of domestic violence. The release states that the CN’s donation is helping Safenet recruit volunteers and organize approximately 300 who already work with the entity throughout the year. “Cherokee Nation has always helped us,” Donna Grabow, Safenet Services executive director, said. “This day and age it’s hard to keep the funds coming and not be cut, and it’s really tough because utilities and food costs are going up and we’re helping three times the number of people. When they come in with nothing, it makes such a big difference to have the help of Cherokee Nation.” Tribal Councilor Keith Austin said he often visits with Grabow and others who work at Safenet Services to check on their programs. “The team at Safenet, led by Donna Grabow, is so dedicated to helping those who are most vulnerable build a better future,” Austin said. “I am proud the Cherokee Nation supports their good work.” The donations to the shelters were provided through the tribe’s charitable contributions fund.
BY LANI HANSEN
Intern
07/13/2018 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation Marshal Services is a tribal law enforcement agency that has 33 deputy marshals who cover the Cherokee Nation’s jurisdiction, which covers all or part of 14 counties in northeast Oklahoma. The CNMS received about 40 applications for deputy marshal this past year and has an average of about 30 to 60 applications in a hiring cycle. “They go through physicals, mental health (testing) and…a psychological evaluation,” Marshal Shannon Buhl said. “They will do their weapons qualification, get sprayed with OC (oleoresin capsicum or pepper) spray and get Taser-certified.” Deputy marshals can only work “in house” and not on the street until they receive an academy date. The academy, known as FLETC, is the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. It is in Artesian, New Mexico, and is four months long. Also to become a deputy marshal, one must study a policy manual that is about 600 pages long and be tested on it. “Once they go there (FLETC) they go for four months. They get trained and certified, but they come back and do four-month FTO (training), which is Field Training Officer. This means they go with a training sergeant for four months and are evaluated every shift during the four-month period,” Buhl said. “So it could be a year from the day we hire somebody until they become a deputy marshal.” Following all the trainings, deputy marshals are able to work and patrol on any given shift depending on how many people are on a shift. Marshals work in shifts but are on patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also, before candidates are hired they must go through CN Human Resources to see if they qualify, can pass a background check and meet other prerequisites. From there they take physical fitness tests where the top test scores are picked by the trainers before moving on to written exams. Applicants must score a 70 on to be considered. Those with the top exam scores will move on to the sergeants’ board that is made up of five sergeants and a lieutenant who ask the applicants questions. It is the first time applicants are interviewed, after the physical fitness tests and written exams. The next interview period occurs after the sergeants pick who can move to the command level board for a two-hour interview. The command board determines if the applicant is a good fit, and they try to gage an applicant’s stress aptitude. After the sergeants make their decisions on whom to hire, the names they choose are submitted to Human Resources for a complete background checks. If they pass, Human Resources will then present applicants job offers. The CNMS has various special operations groups. Before applying for special operations, deputy marshals have to be on the job for a year. A special operations team is similar to a SWAT team, Buhl said. The team performs hostage rescue, high risk warrant service, can deal with an armed and barricaded gunman and has “direct action” teams that can work on issues affecting communities such as gangs. “We can put that team in there and concentrate on those issues,” Buhl said. The second group is a dive team. They do underwater evidence recovery and body recovery. “We usually have about half a dozen calls for the dive team a year and have around 50 calls for the special operations team,” Buhl said. The marshals also have a Search and Rescue team that can search for lost or injured people. The CNMS is located in next to the Tribal Complex. For more information, call 918-207-3800.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/21/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission wants to ensure that eligible CN citizens register to vote in the tribe’s 2019 general election, which is set for June 1. According to an EC press release, CN citizens who are at least 18 years old, or will be 18 on the day of the general election, must register to vote by midnight CST on March 29. The release also states that people who have never registered to vote or who aren’t registered in the districts of their respective residences, as well as people who are registered but need to change their registration information, may register by completing and submitting CN voter registration applications on or before the voter registration deadline. According to the release, voters with new 911 addresses will also need to complete voter registration applications, updating their address information on or before March 29. “Now is the time to check and make sure you are registered to vote. Citizens are encouraged to check with the Election Commission office and to verify the information is correct,” Elections Director Connie Parnell said. “With Cherokee Nation Holiday fast approaching the Election Commission will be attending the holiday celebration. The Election Commission will provide voter registration stations for the visitors to check on their registrations.” Parnell said the registration stations would be located in the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex during open house and the Courthouse Square during the parade and State of the Union Address. Voter registration forms can be requested or submitted in person, by U.S. mail, email or fax. Forms are available online at <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/elections.aspx" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/elections.aspx</a> or in the Election Commission Office at 17763 S. Muskogee Ave. To mail a request, send the request to Cherokee Nation Election Commission, P.O. Box 1188, Tahlequah, OK 74465-1188. To submit an email request, email <a href="mailto: election-commission@cherokee.org">election-commission@cherokee.org</a>. For a fax request, dial 918-458-6101. According to the release, the EC responds in writing to every person who submits a voter registration application. The response is either a voter notification card listing the new voter’s district number or a letter explaining why the application for voter registration was not approved. Any person who has submitted a voter registration application and has not received a response within 30 days should contact the EC, the release states. Parnell said the EC also plans to provide voter outreach efforts at events and locations such as community meetings, health clinics, high schools and technology centers within the tribe’s jurisdiction. For more information, call 918-458-5899 or toll free at 1-800-353-2895.