By Vicki Turetsky, Commissioner, Office of Child Support Enforcement
Tribal child support programs are growing by leaps and bounds. With the latest tribe—Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Bayfield, Wis.—joining us this July, the national child support program now boasts 56 fully comprehensive tribal programs and six more in the start-up phase.
Only 16 years ago, federal legislation created a path for tribal child support programs. Nine comprehensive programs began their journey up that path, paving the way for the next 47 with more to come. These original nine (listed below) have collected more than $160 million since 2001. Comprehensive tribal programs together collected over $42 million in FY 2012 alone.
These dollars to families are more important than ever. The Pew Research Center reported in June that Native Americans have a higher poverty rate (26 percent) compared with the national average (15 percent). Unemployment rates for Native Americans also rank higher than the national average.
To help tribes enhance services to tribal families, we have published a new OCSE competitive grant funding opportunity for comprehensive tribal child support programs. The Tribal Innovation Grants will help eligible tribes strengthen their innovative, family-centered services, including through partnerships with other programs. Applications are due Aug. 12, with a possible Sept. 1 start.
Our Model Tribal System (MTS) participation is gaining strength, too. Five tribes now operate the system: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Modoc, Forest County Potawatomi Community, Mille Lacs, and Lac Courte Oreilles. Three more tribes are installing the system: Winnebago, Suquamish, and White Earth. In OCSE we are fine-tuning performance, planning enhancements and modifications, and of course, continuing to roll out the MTS to tribes that request installation.
Our goal is to widen the path further for new tribal programs each year. More tribal child support will mean more parental support for Indian children who need it the most—more money for food, clothing, school supplies, and opportunities to thrive in many ways.
Nine tribal child support programs led the way: