By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Title IV-E plan containing plans and policies (Cherokee Administrative Rules) for the new child welfare system for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has been approved by federal officials. Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gave their stamp of approval in a letter to the tribe dated Monday, Oct. 6.
“We appreciate all of the effort and work you have put into the process toward submitting an approvable title IV-E plan,” wrote Rafael Lopez, Commissioner in the Administration on Children, Youth and Families within the HHS. “We wish to thank you, the EBCI tribal leaders, your social services program staff, legal staff, fiscal staff and your partners for their diligent work toward finalizing your title IV-E plan. In particular, we want to recognize both Hannah Smith and Sheena Meader for all their motivation, national leadership and attention to detail in the development of your title IV-E program.”
Approval of the tribe’s plan gives the EBCI Family Safety Program the ability to operate Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, and Guardianship Assistance Programs.
“This is an important milestone in your ongoing work to support the safety, permanency and well-being of EBCI’s most vulnerable children and families,” Lopez said.
Smith, EBCI attorney general, commented, “This document totals hundreds of pages of laws and regulatory policy for all aspects of the federally-funded tribal Family Safety Program. Managing the production of this document over the past two years required a lot of team work, a learning curve for the application of diverse subject matters and best practices in the areas of integrative services, human sciences and federal program administration.”
Sheena M. Meader, EBCI associate counsel, worked on the Title IV-E plan and said the tribe is only one of seven nationally to such a plan approved. “This places the EBCI in an elite group of tribal child welfare providers and raises the tribe to the highest level of recognition in the eyes of child welfare programs and professionals across the nation. Not only does the Title IV-E plan and program approval bolster credibility and provide for the implementation of quality services, standards and adherence to best practices, it also serves as the foundation for the EBCI in supporting the safety, permanency and well-being of the tribe’s most vulnerable children and families.”
She continued, “By incorporating the integration of child welfare and behavioral health into the backbone of laws, rules, policies and procedures which were included in the approved plan, the Family Safety Program is uniquely positioned to serve as a model for not only other tribes but state child welfare programs as well.
The tribe joins six other federally-recognized tribes that have an approved Title IV-E plan including: Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe of Kingston, Wash.; Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Pablo, Mont.; South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency of Shelton, Wash.; Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of Baraga, Mich.; Navajo Nation of Window Rock, Ariz.; and Chickasaw Nation of Ada, Okla.
“This is an incredible achievement for the Office of the Attorney General and a real bright spot in the futures of Cherokee families,” said Smith.
Meader went on to say, “Additionally, through the tireless work of Sunshine Parker, EBCI Division of Health and Human Services, as a foster care licensing authority with approved standards that meet or exceed the recognized national standards for foster care licensing, is able to license tribal foster homes to promote the placement of Cherokee children in Cherokee homes.”
She said the Family Safety Program is “actively recruiting” EBCI tribal members to serve as foster parents. If you are interested, call 359-1520.