EBCI Family Safety Program celebrates fifth anniversary

by Oct 1, 2020COMMUNITY sgadugi, Health


Submitted by EBCI Family Safety Program


On Oct. 1, 2015, the Family Safety Program became the child welfare and adult protective services program of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI).  The Family Safety Program took over jurisdiction from North Carolina Department of Social Services for any child welfare or adult protective matter arising on tribal trust land.

A lot of work was required for Family Safety to exist.  Three years prior to the program going live, employees and members of the tribe came together to create a vision for what was needed in a child welfare program that would serve our community.  A group of individuals went to Georgetown University in 2012 and completed a capstone project that was the foundation for integrated juvenile and child welfare services using the Results-Based Accountability framework.  This project was awarded the Capstone of the Year Award by Georgetown in 2017.

In 2013, work began on the required IV-E Plan that would give the EBCI direct access to federal funding that had been going directly to the state and county agencies.  This plan required the EBCI to create a comprehensive child welfare code, known as the Children’s Code, as well as policies and procedures for the Family Safety Program to operate a fully functioning agency for child and adult protective services.  In 2015, the EBCI became only the seventh tribe to be approved to receive direct IV-E funding, operate a foster care, adoption assistance, and guardianship assistance program.

Over the last five years the Family Safety Program has:

  • served 7,000 children through our child protective services
  • served 700 elderly and vulnerable adults through our adult protective services
  • served 400 children through in-home services to prevent their removal
  • served 350 children through the integrated foster care and behavioral health services
  • served 627 enrolled children through ICWA services throughout the United States
  • participated in 633 ICWA hearings in state court throughout the United States
  • provided over 600 transports through our case aide program
  • licensed fifty foster homes and five kinship homes
  • staff have completed 2,999 hours of in person training and 801 hours of online training
  • multiple staff have returned to school to complete bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees
  • created a comprehensive five week on boarding training for all new staff that includes cultural education
  • built a custom database for child welfare and adult protective cases
  • been awarded the Chief Noah Powell Fiscal Excellence Award
  • been awarded the Capstone of the Year Award
  • been named a semi-finalist for the 2020 Honoring Nation Award from the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development

The Family Safety Program is proud of all the work that we have done and the recognition we have received.  However, some of the accomplishments we see daily are immeasurable.  Seeing a parent find recovery, regain custody of her children, go back to school, and become a peer support specialist is immeasurable.  Watching a child be adopted into a loving home, grow, thrive, and overcome trauma is immeasurable.  Finding a family member for a child that was willing to step up on a moment’s notice to care for them is immeasurable.  Having foster families that will open their home and their hearts, no matter the time, is immeasurable.  Helping a family overcome obstacles so that their children do not have to be removed is immeasurable.  Having a community that truly cares for there fellow community members and offer support in whatever way they can is immeasurable.

And of course, none of this would be possible without the dedicated staff that make up the Family Safety Program.  The staff of the Family Safety Program have dedicated themselves to improving themselves, the program, and the community.  Currently the program has twenty-three front line workers, two case-aides, five supervisors, four administrative assistants, one grant coordinator, one evidence-based intervention specialist, one eligibility worker, four therapists, and two targeted case managers.  Without each one of these staff the Family Safety Program could not exist and could not do the work that it is doing.  Every single member of the Family Safety team sacrifices a piece of themselves for the program.  They have sacrificed time with their families, they have worked holidays, they have sat up all night with a child in the office and in the hospital, they have been yelled at and threatened, they have suffered secondary trauma.  They have also witnessed reunifications and successes; they find the positive in every day even when it seems like everything is going wrong.

Thank you to the members of the Family Safety Team who work everyday to make our program succeed:

Aileen Green, Amy Dills, Amy Smith, Ashley Moore, Betty Reagan, Brent Shipton, Brooklynn Ledford, Christian Wilson, Christopher Hebenstreit, Crystal Hicks, Dre Crowe, Elizabeth Fyvolent, Elizabeth Hebenstreit, Ephleada Anthony, Jenny Bean, Jessica Betty, Jill Miller, Joelean Fox, Joseph Lambert, Kandee Parker, Kashayla Gregg, Kathy McMahan, Kathy Stephenson, Leyla El-Baba, Lisa Young, Margie Dunn, Meghan Arnold, Melody Turner, Morgan Buckner, Nicholas Ross, Nicolas Squirrell, Nikki Toineeta, Patty Buchanan, Richelle Jenkins, Sasha Jumper, Savannah Stiles, Sharon Foust, Sheena Ledford, Stacey Lindsay, Toineeta Saunooke, Tracy Phillips, and Tsalidi Sequoyah

The Family Safety Program is grateful to be a part of the EBCI community.  We are grateful for the community’s and the EBCI’s faith in us.  The program and the staff that make it work dedicate themselves every day to achieving our mission of creating healthy, safe, intact Cherokee families.  We look forward to continuing to grow and meet the ever-changing needs of our community.

If you need to make a report of child or adult maltreatment during regular business hours, call 359-1520.  After hours, on weekends, and holidays call 497-4131 and ask for the on call social worker.