Greg Richardson, director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, signs a memorandum of understanding between the state and tribes. It is designed to build more appropriate care for American Indian foster children. Looking on are, on the left, Sherry Bradsher, of the state Department of Administration, and Ruth Revels, a Robeson County native and chair of the Commission of Indian Affairs.
More than 150 members of the tribes of North Carolina were represented at the November 5 Indian Child Welfare Gathering hosted at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The gathering, held during American Indian Heritage Month, focused on the issue of foster care and culture.
In attendance were Sharon and David Crowe, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation. The Crowes discussed their experience hosting 240 foster children over a 40-year period.
“The biggest thing these children need is love,” David Crowe said in an emotion packed testimonial. “We try to show them love. Even if it is short term, we still make them part of our family.
“Foster parents can make a difference,” Crowe said. “They will remember how you made them feel.”
The Eastern Band of Cherokee has taken an active role with their Department of Social Services to recruit and place the tribe’s foster children with Indian families. During the meeting the North Carolina tribes, represented by the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, signed a memorandum of understanding with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to promote the recruitment and training of American Indian foster families.
Robeson County has 165 Indian children in foster care and 11 Indian foster parents, said Anthony Maynor, supervisor of foster care for the Robeson County Department of Social Services.
“We actively recruit foster parents at powwows, churches and working with the tribe,” said Maynor. He reviewed the program to promote better knowledge of its requirements and benefits.
The gathering featured sessions on the Guardian Ad Litem program, Child Protective Services and children’s health. All eight North Carolina tribes were represented at the gathering.
As UNC Pembroke and its Southeast American Indian Studies program become leaders of American Indian communities in North Carolina and the southeastern U.S., it has begun to host more events, including speakers, issue-oriented conferences, like this one, and other gatherings.
The daylong event was led by the North Carolina Department of Administration and the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs. UNCP’s Southeast American Indian Studies program and the Department of Social Work were campus sponsors, and Robeson Healthcare Corporation (RHCC) was the major community underwriter.
“We have been and will continue to be committed to working with our community friends to keep our community families healthy and intact,” said RHCC president and CEO Carl I Walters II. “To this end, we are a proud sponsor of this initiative and we remain steadfast in our agency efforts to “making a positive difference” helping to keep our community families whole and healthy.”
“Robeson Health Care Corporation has played a foundational role in working with community stakeholder business partners to offer comprehensive and integrated primary care services such as; family practice, pediatrics, women’s health, OB/GYN; internal medicine, pharmacy services, substance abuse, behavioral health and residential treatment services for our valued community families for 30 years,” Walters said.
Walters affirms: “As part of our nation’s 1,300 plus Federally Qualified Health Center provider network, Robeson Health Care Corporation has been on the forefrontof chronic disease prevention/detection and treatment for 30 years.”
RHCC operates seven health clinics in Columbus, Montgomery, Robeson and Scotland as well as behavioral and mental health facilities.
The memorandum opens with a statement of the importance of placing American Indian foster children with Indian families: “The welfare of North Carolina’s American Indian children and families is directly connected to the relationship they have with their tribe, culture, extended families and communities.”
“This is a challenge to communities to establish their own memorandums of understanding with the Department of Social Services to support positive outcomes for children,” said Greg Richardson, executive director of the Commission on Indian Affairs.
“This is a great step forward,” said Ruth Revels, chair of the commission. “Keeping American Indian foster children in the family and in the community is a priority.”