Published October 18, 2017
By Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker
The Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare team has launched a new initiative to recruit foster and adoptive parents, as well as collect some of the vital items needed for children in need. “Chosen One” is a contest featuring Cherokee Nation citizens the ICW staff has selected. These “chosen” participants were selected to assist the ICW department in recruiting Native foster and adoptive homes and will be advocating for others to get involved by donating items like diapers, backpacks, clothing and car safety chairs. These individuals are respected leaders and will be competing with one another in the “Chosen One” challenge, which will be an annual drive. The contestant with the most applicants and items donated to Cherokee Nation ICW will win the challenge.
Some of the best ways to gain new foster and adoptive families are to get the word out with new voices and recruit new recruiters, who can utilize their circles of influence as well as their social media connections. One of the strategies evident in the “Chosen One” push is to look at stakeholders in our communities that others value and respect.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker
“Chosen One” participants this year include Matt Anderson, Casey Baker, Greg Bilby, Shannon Buhl, Susan Chapman-Plumb, David Cornsilk, LeeAnn Dreadfulwater, Canaan Duncan, Alayna Farris, Rhonda Foster, Brian Hail, Daryl Legg, Debra Proctor, Brandon Scott, Kevin Stretch, Mark Taylor, Bryan Warner, Kara Whitworth and Tommy Wildcat. These 19 people have been tabbed because they possess leadership skills and have great compassion for our people. They understand the need, they care about our children’s future, and they will be excellent assets for our ICW recruitment team. It is no secret that when notable people speak, we all pay attention and respond. The deadline for the contest is the end of November, giving participants about six weeks to compete for the most new homes and desired materials.
The campaign is the creative idea of our ICW team, which is constantly devising new ways to spread its important message. It is fun and a positive way to get Cherokees involved with recruitment and keep this issue in the public eye. Our ICW workers are dedicated and committed, but they cannot do this work alone for our children. They need fellow Cherokees to step in and step up to help. As we communicate with family, friends and co-workers, it is critical that we all work to share Cherokee Nation’s ICW’s vast needs with the public.
Everything the ICW team does to garner support for our children and families is centered on Cherokee cultural values, including “digadatseli,” which means “we belong to each other.” Taking care of our children, protecting our future, requires all of us to be part of that circle.
Today, Cherokee Nation’s ICW office works with more than 1,900 children. That figure includes children in Oklahoma’s custody, tribal custody and children involved in civil guardianships and adoptions. About 630 of those 1,900 children are in the state’s custody within our 14-county jurisdiction, and another 70 Cherokee children are in the Cherokee Nation’s custody. Seventy percent of the youth in state custody are in need of American Indian foster care placement. Unfortunately, we have only 50 certified foster homes at this time.
No doubt the need is immense. We see a myriad of reasons, from historical trauma to lack of parenting skills to addiction, that have caused a spike in the numbers of kids in need. Innocent children deserve every opportunity to grow into what God intended for them. I am asking Cherokee families to look in your heart and, if possible, open your doors and your lives to a Cherokee child. If that is not possible, please give what you are able to and support our ICW office as it fights for Cherokee children.
To find out more about the “Chosen One” campaign or to learn more about our foster and adoptive programs, visit www.cherokeekids.org or call 918-458-6900.
Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.