SUBMITTED By CHEROKEE BOYS CLUB
The Cherokee Children’s Home has been receiving a lot of attention lately with the discussion of building a new facility. Many people and organizations have been calling to inquire about what they can do to help the children. This has been a wonderful thing for us and the children. It has also provided an opportunity to speak with people about the Children’s Home and to give out information. The purpose of this article is to begin the process of letting the broader community know more about the Cherokee Children’s Home and to give up-to-date information about our mission, some of our policies and our plans for our new facility.
The Children’s Home was started in 1969 when it had become evident that many Cherokee youth could not safely remain in their homes and were being sent away from Cherokee to live in foster homes with non-native families. These issues also necessitated the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 which follows the same spirit of removing children from homes when attempts at keeping the children in the home have failed and then placing them in a safe home that reflects native culture.
Since 1969, the State Department of Health and Human Services has also passed State laws and guidelines for the protection of all children as well as requirements and standards for foster homes and group homes. The Children’s Home is currently licensed as a residential group home and is not considered a treatment or “leveled” group home facility. Our aim is to maintain a home environment without appearing too institutional.
The Children’s Home is currently a department of the Cherokee Boys Club. It receives no operational funding directly from the Tribe. The operations are monitored by a state licensing consultant from the Department of Health and Human Services and a contract supervisor with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Children’s Home is currently structured with a department manager, Cris Weatherford; an administrative assistant, currently vacant; a social worker, Monica Wildcatt; and the residential counselors who work eight-hour shifts around the clock to provide care to the children. Funding is provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs through a Social Services contract and by the state board payments received from the counties who place children who are in their custody. The Children’s Home also hosts an annual golf tournament at the Sequoyah National Golf Club.
The primary goal of the staff is to take care of children who have been victims of abuse or neglect and dependency. Most of the referrals for these placements come from the Department of Social Services. One scenario that commonly occurs is parents who want to place their children in the Children’s Home to straighten them out or teach them that they should be thankful to live in a home. This is not our focus and we do not directly use one child’s misfortune and trauma to teach another child to behave better for their parents. That being said, occasionally referrals are received from a parent who is already engaged in services such as counseling with their children to help with behavior problems. If there is a plan for the child and services are in place and attempts have been made to prevent placement, we can be part of that process and help the family.
Once a child is placed at the Children’s Home, the staff and social worker work diligently to make sure that the child receives any and all services that they need. This could include assistance in personal hygiene, nutrition, bringing medical and dental care up-to-date, and providing following up with the school to make sure the child does her/his best in school. We frequently get the child and family involved in counseling to help with the issues that brought the child to our center so that the issues can be resolved and the child can safely return home. The staff has a strong working relationship with local Department of Social Services workers who make sure everyone is working toward a common goal. We try hard to make sure children have the opportunity to learn what being in a caring, structured home can be like; this includes non-corporal punishment and discipline as well as fun activities and outings. The staff has bi-weekly team meetings that sometimes involve other professionals involved in the cases to make sure that the Children’s Home is doing all it can to meet the child’s needs.
If you have any questions about the Children’s Home, please do not hesitate to call Cris Weatherford at 497-5009. Look for additional information on plans for our new facility and what you can do to help. We will also be updating the website that can be accessed through www.cherokeeboysclub.com.