BY LANI HANSEN
From left are UKB Indian Child Welfare clerks Alli Stayathome and Emma Dart, former Director Roxana Wilden and case aide specialist Rylee Grimmett. In May, they helped host the state Department of Human Service's "Completing the Circle" event to help Native children in foster care stay culturally connected. PHOTOS BY LANI HANSEN/GIDUWA CHEROKEE NEWS
Oklahoma's Department of Human Services hosts an Indigenous Cultural Awareness event for foster families.
TAHLEQUAH – Every year the Oklahoma Department of Human Services sponsors the “Completing the Circle” event to help Native children in foster care stay connected to their culture.
In late May, the United Keetoowah Band was the host for the 14th annual event. The Indian Child Welfare department took charge for this event, and it all came together with extra help from employees of the tribe.
“All tribes take turns hosting, so this year was our turn,” Former ICW Director Roxana Wilden said. “All the other tribes came as well, to show what their culture is.”
According to ICW Case Aide Specialist Rylee Grimmett, DHS has this event because a lot of the foster homes are not tribal certified. She said many of the children in the system don’t know their culture because they aren’t being raised in the cultural setting.
Completing the Circle is an annual event aiming to provide success and stability by raising cultural awareness for Native American children in foster care. According to OKDHS website, many American Indian/Alaskan Native families are multicultural and adapt to their surrounding culture. From the 50s to the 70s and thousands bring adopted out, were raised with little awareness or knowledge of their culture.
As the host tribe this year Wilden and Grimmett laughed saying, it was stressful but amazing because in the end it was seeing all the kids having fun.
“One of our girls in ICW has never seen powwow dancing or the knowing about the regalia,” Grimmett added. “It was neat to see the glow that they got from it.”
The day began with an opening ceremony with Choogie Kingfisher assisting as emcee. During the first part of the morning there was a powwow demonstration, spokesperson for stompdance, storytellers, cultural crafts such as (cornhusk dolls, medicine bags, mini moccasins), participants were able to tour the John Hair Cultural Center and Museum.
“The museum had a table setup with traditional foods for people to try,” Grimmett said. “David Comingdeer came and spoke about stickball and the history of it.”
Although the rain Tahlequah received interfered with some activities for the day, like the drunk driving simulation the event still was a success. Participants received swag bags full of freebies for attending.
“We were able to feed everyone that day,” Wilden said. “We had lunch from Fish’s Bar B Que, thanks to the Council.”
The UKB ICW is here to help tribal members and their children. They work with the parents who are struggling in providing a safe place or supplies of the home. They are currently trying to do guardianships, so the tribal children in ICW are placed in homes within tribal families, communities and culture.
“If we don’t have enough foster homes then we need to look at guardianships, because there are families out there that are willing to take a child, they just don’t know that we can help them,” Wilden said.
Our ICW staff are here to make sure the children are going into the best place possible.
“Sometimes I feel like parents are scared of us or worried of what we’re going to think, until they realize we’re here to help you if you need our help,” Grimmett added. “The safety of the child is what’s most important to us.”
Currently there are about 15 children in the system with UKB ICW. Some of these children are placed in certified homes from the tribe and others are placed in the state certified homes, UKB works with the state cases.
To become a foster parent, call Grimmett at 918-871-2809 for an application.