The Giduwa Cherokee News has decided to spotlight a new UKB employee each month as a way for tribal members to come to know the friendly faces behind the tribe. Below is this month’s feature.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
TAHLEQUAH - Before Brandy Chapman began working for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in November 2018, she had originally planned to look into different career opportunities.
She had worked at the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma’s Indian Child Welfare office for close to three years before moving on to work in Child Welfare Services at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. She specialized in permanency cases before transferring to foster care cases for nearly three years.
A change was on her mind, but then came word of mouth that UKB was hiring in their Indian Child Welfare Department.
“When I had originally left child welfare, I had planned on looking into doing other things. Then a previous coworker of mine let me know that UKB was looking for a child welfare specialist,” said Chapman.
The opportunity was one she couldn’t turn away from, citing the current climate surrounding cases related to the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. ICWA was first implemented in 1978 and is a federal law meant to keep Native American children within their own family if parental custody is temporarily suspended or terminated.
“Things were going on in regards to ICWA and how it is still under attack in different states, which I still feel incredibly strong about fighting to make ICWA (respected),” said Chapman, in regards to a recent ruling in Texas that struck down ICWA regulations during an adoption case.
She said the perspectives between the tribal and state systems are “very different” and that challenges at the state level make it difficult on tribal children.
“I just feel strongly that all tribes need to be spoken up for to maintain ICWA and to help families,” said Chapman. “The goal is to place the child safely back with its family. We want them safe with the parent. If not, we want them safe with a family member. If not, you want them in the tribe. Each move is another trauma for that child and that is something that they don’t need.”
As a child welfare specialist, Chapman gets the opportunity to advocate for ICWA in foster and adoption cases and assist families in a variety of ways.
“I go to court and represent the best interest in the tribe and make recommendations as to how the parents are doing, like if the placement is acceptable,” she said. “I also do visits with kids and families. I try to do help with transportation. I try to help find placement. I visit with intake workers to find out if the kids are moving into with tribal members. I am very open if anyone has any questions. Or if they don’t understand something, I am here.”
Through it all, Chapman stays passionate about her work because she wants to be a positive force.
“I want to do good while I am here. That is the belief system I was raised in,” she said. “I am passionate about this because I don’t believe we can continue on as a successful tribe, any tribe, any race, without caring about our members. Nothing is perfect, but it does deserve a change. There are days where it is frustrating, but there are success stories.”
To contact Chapman, email email@example.com. To contact the UKB Indian Child Welfare inquiry line, call 918-871-2834.