White Earth Band of Ojibwe Indian Child Welfare Program

[Erma J. Vizenor, Chairwoman, White Earth Nation]
We know the disparities on Indian child welfare in the state of Minnesota. White Earth has taken the leadership on addressing those disparities. In 2007 White Earth was one of the two
tribes who participated in the pilot project through the Department of Human Services. Very successful. Of course the cases were transferred from
the three counties and limited to only the reservation. Two years ago I went to the state
Legislature and had the jurisdiction and the authority to
transfer all White Earth cases to the tribe, all cases throughout the state of Minnesota. I have only credit to give to my Indian Child Welfare Department. I shouldn’t say mine, ours. Because they’ve done an awesome job. [Jeri Jasken, Director, White Earth Indian Child Welfare]
Just the relationship of our workers
to the parents and their children is different, because tribally we’re viewed as being like a brother
and sister to our parents. Those children are viewed as being
like our nieces and nephews. So we have a much stronger tie to the parents and
the children. And we have a much stronger, then, inherent responsibility to protect and try to heal all of them. I think that
the culture is incorporated from the first point of contact with the family. We try to go in under an assessment as friendly and as supportive and as respectful as possible. And
honoring that family knowing that there may be some issues suspected of
going on with the family but we want to help and support them to see them be successful and see
them be healthy again. [Lynn Lund, Assistant director, White Earth Indian Child Welfare]
Well there’s a lot of poverty,
unemployment, drug abuse with our families, which, of course, leads to child protection and
to our agency. We’re there to support them. If we have to remove children then
we work to reunify as quickly as we can, leave the children with family, if it’s at all possible, which is what we strive for. [Melanie Anderson, child protection worker, White Earth Indian Child Welfare]
I especially enjoy working with the
children. I enjoy going into the homes and working
with the moms and the children and building a rapport with them. And making sure that they get engaged in their case plan. [Jessi Keezer, receptionist, White Earth Nation]
From 2010, I literally hit rock
bottom. I had nothing. I lost my children. I lost my job, my home, I lost everything. And they came into my life. And
I’ve got my children back. I have a full-time job.
I feel good about myself. And my children are my world. The children and the youth are
the future of our tribe. And, of course, when we, given our history, of foster care and out-of-home placement and, prior to that time, that era, the boarding school era, We have, we have challenges, but we are making
great strides.

Daniel Yohans

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