1,057 Children

by Dec 7, 2021Health, NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


Editor’s Note: Vickie Bradley, Secretary of Public Health and Human Services spoke at a work session on Indian Child Welfare Act conducted by Tribal Council on October 26, 2021. The following is a transcription of her presentation.

I’m going to talk about why we have 1,057 children that have child abuse reports in the last year. It’s a conversation that we avoid in this community. It’s about child abuse, neglect, trauma, generational trauma, and parenting skills. If we look at the reports that were screened-in for investigation: drug exposed infants, involve neglect physical abuse, sexual abuse, involved dependency, domestic violence, substance abuse, all kinds of other matters and these are happening in homes across this Boundary.

They’re happening, unfortunately, in grandparents’ homes. They are happening in fathers’ homes; mothers’ homes; uncles’ homes, aunts’ homes, sisters’, brothers’. They are our children. The conversation that we need to be having is had we stop perpetration on children in this community. That’s the conversation that we must get to.

Our teams work hard. Do we have some issues with some of our employees at times? Yes, we address those. We have those hard conversations, address behaviors, and expectations.

Out of 1057 children, some of those are screened in, some are investigated, but of all the children that we place, and we average anywhere from 60 to 100 children in custody at any moment. Right now we have 14 off Boundary but if you drill down into those, those are places… they’re off-Boundary because there are services we don’t have. And your right. It’s a huge umbrella as Hannah mentioned. We have this huge bell curve, and we have those isolated cases of people and children that we can’t meet their needs currently because we don’t have a pediatric facility. We don’t have autism homes on the Boundary. There are number of things that we don’t have.

We really don’t have as a grassroots effort for people to say we’re not going to tolerate this anymore. We’re going to stop allowing our children in our homes to be perpetrated, to be sexually abused, to be neglected, to be allowed to be in places where things are happening in our homes that children should never witness and see. Until we can get to that level, we’re going to see this and we’re going to deal with it for generations.

I appreciate your words, council member Teresa (Big Cove Representative McCoy). There are things that children witness…you said this earlier today…in homes they should never witness. Until we are willing to draw a hard line in our own families, until we can stop that generational trauma, we’re going to continue to deal with this and there’s no way you can find enough facilities to deal with this. There is no way.

We have a number of grants in PHHS. We have the CDC opioid strategy. We are in the 4th year. Our strategic plan is addressing stigma on mental health and seeking mental health. And you talk about first responders and the stories; the things that our team members at Family Safety, Heart to Heart, Domestic Violence (program) even Tribal Home Care Services must see, witness, and report nauseate you honestly and at the hands of family members that should be nurturing and caring.

I appreciate all the commentary and all the concerns about what we do and where we place children. I know that our team exhaust efforts to try to get children placed. We have done a lot (regarding compensation). We have one of the only cost-allocation plans in the country and so we reimbursed every month. I sign tons of purchase orders and some families get as much as almost $800 a child to be in their home. We subsidized childcare to assist with that in the community and we do kinship placement. Not only do we do that, but we also provide goods and services for those children in foster care; to get clothing they need, to get beds, and equipment for their homes. We do more probably than any other social service agency in the state.

Is it enough? No. It’s never enough. We can always do more. What we don’t see is people participating and responding because it’s hard conversations to have about the secrets that happen in our community. Until we can stop this cycle of neglect, abuse, and sexual assault on our children, we’re never going to have enough services. Our children are not going to grow up healthy, happy, and productive individuals because they have so much trauma in their lives that they can’t function, or they function inappropriately. And they’re angry. They’re sad. They’re depressed and they self-inflict harm.

We must get to that deeper conversation and the system can’t do that. It’s got to be grassroots to help that come from families. If you have thoughts or ideas on how we can help elevate that conversation in the community, we certainly would be open to hearing that as well. Our goal, our vision is seven generations of wellness in body, mind, and spirit. That is our goal for PHHS. That’s what we want to do for the community. To get there, we’ve got to deal with this first generation. We’ve got to deal with what happens and what’s allowed and its conversations that are very hard and very painful. When we start talking, we must have services to help remedy those feelings and know how to deal with those feelings. Right?

I suspect when I hear about bullying in schools that there’s a reason a child come to school angry and wanting to hit and lash out to another child. It may be because it’s a safe place and it’s the only place that they can get out their resentment and anger. I don’t know. I’m not a psychiatrist, but we see enough cases and deal with enough cases and hear enough stories from our children that I know that as a health system, it’s time that we get to the root of the problem and not just try to keep band-aiding the problem.