Tag Archives: Tribal Program

Celebrating the growth and success of tribal child support programs in honor of Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month

2015_native_american_heritage-2In honor of Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month, OCSE celebrates the growth and success of tribal child support programs.

Today, one in ten federally recognized tribes — 59 out of 566 — operate comprehensive child support programs. Another four tribal programs are in the start-up phase. Many tribes have incorporated traditional practices into a holistic tribal family-centered service delivery model.

Federal funding for tribal child support began in 1996 when the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act gave HHS authority to recognize and directly fund tribal child support programs. To jumpstart the implementation, OCSE offered Special Improvement Project (SIP) grants. Tribal nations could request funding directly or through a state partnership to establish a new child support program or enhance their existing one.

Three tribes collaborated with states to establish a tribal child support office. The cover article of the October/November Child Support Report, “Early history of tribal child support”, describes New Mexico’s use of federal funds to help the Navajo Nation establish three tribal offices in 1996. The Chickasaw Nation co-authored a SIP application with Oklahoma to establish its own tribal child support office in 1998. Wisconsin also received SIP funding and helped the Menominee Nation establish a child support office on the reservation.

Seven tribes received the first SIP grants directly in 1999:

Tribal automation has expanded too. Nine tribes are using the MTS, one is installing the system, and three have Advance Planning Documents under review. They’ve come a long way since the Forest County Potawatomi Community agreed to pilot the system in 2009 and was joined the following year by the Modoc Tribe. To support program growth, OCSE and tribes collaborated to develop the Model Tribal System. Sandy Cloer, the Tribal Child Support Program Director of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians chronicled her tribe’s progression from membership in a tribal child support consortium to having its own MTS program, and now leads a consortium to help other tribes get started. Read about that journey in the CSR article, “Starting a tribal child support program.”

Over the years, I’ve seen a change in how tribal programs have come together to build a strong peer network by forming the National Tribal Child Support Association as well as emerging regional associations. I’ve also observed deepening and respectful relationships between states and tribes. I’ve seen tribes reach out to states and states reach out to tribes to support our common mission through openness, dialogue, and partnership. I’ve seen tribal child support transition from a young program without a lot of specialized experience or technology to a more mature, full-service program that is modeling best practices and holding itself accountable.

At OCSE, our organizational culture has evolved right along with the growth of the tribal program. We’ve integrated the tribal program into our daily business. We formally reorganized our office so that virtually every aspect of our work now has a tribal component. We continue to learn some lessons about consultation, dialogue, and trust in order to work through tough, complicated issues. We’ve learned to navigate together and we’ve seen the tribal child support program come into its own.

This is all part of building stronger futures for Native children. Our Tribal Innovation Grants are helping tribal child support offices improve their capacity to administer innovative, family-centered child support services that help parents provide reliable support for their children. You’ll read how the Forest County Potawatomi Community and Chippewa Cree Tribe are using grants to improve customer access to services, increase collections, and coordinate with child welfare and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The tribal program has put down roots. It is moving into a new phase of deepening services, refining practices, and strengthening impact. I have had the honor to witness an incredible program take its place to support renewal of tribal family resilience, hope, and healing.

We feature more stories about tribal child support programs in the October/November CSR. I would love to hear your experiences.

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Our Growing Tribal Child Support Programs

Indian kidsThe number of tribal child support programs is growing—and many children are thriving as a result. Today, 42 tribes operate comprehensive programs and another 10 tribes manage start-up programs on their way to becoming comprehensive. Other tribes have expressed an interest in starting child support programs that meet the needs of Indian families and communities.

Tribes have long understood the value of working in a holistic environment compatible with the “bubble chart” as we see in the many examples of family-centered services in recent Child Support Report articles. We’ve read about Osage Nation’s program to help parents avoid incarceration (April); Albert Pooley’s (President of the Native American Fatherhood and Families Association) perspectives on strengthening families (June); Nez Perce Tribe’s video in social media to promote a fatherhood training program (September); and how child support agencies can address the prevalence of domestic violence in tribal families (October). And in the November issue, we learn about the Modoc tribal program’s enforcement tool that’s helping noncustodial parents obtain employment and avoid incarceration.

Tribal child support programs, like state and county programs, are well-positioned to provide holistic services by forming partnerships with other tribal programs, such as TANF, child welfare, workforce, community colleges, fatherhood, wellness, domestic violence, and justice programs. These cross-program partnerships can help increase reliable child support payments through expanded work opportunities and stronger family relationships.

With the signing of the ACF Tribal Consultation Policy, we are educating more staff within ACF about working with tribal programs. The Administration for Native Americans distributed a book titled Working in Indian Country:  Building Successful Business Relationships with American Indian Tribes. OCSE appreciates its ongoing collaboration with ANA to identify innovative cross-program strategies that can support tribal programs.

The MTS (Model Tribal System) testing continues with the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma and Forest County Potawatomi Community tribal child support programs. Once testing is completed later this year, both tribes will load their respective caseloads onto their copies of the system and move into full production mode. Early next year, the MTS is slated to roll out nationwide, and will be available at that time to all interested tribes. To support the MTS project into the future, OCSE secured a contractor to provide ongoing software maintenance support, including both maintenance of the base system and any future enhancement activities.

We continue to engage tribes in a collaborative process to move the program forward in a way that is culturally appropriate so more and more children and families will thrive.

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