Tahlequah Daily Press


July 6, 2007

Oklahoma first in deaths of abused children


CASA of Cherokee Country assists families by providing advocates who serve as voices for abused and neglected children in three different court systems: Cherokee County District Court, Adair County District Court and Cherokee Nation Tribal Court.

While the CASA agency is far-reaching in the immediate area, Cherokee Nation’s Division of Children Youth and Family Services, assists Cherokee children in 44 of 50 states. According to Group Leader Norma Merriman, that’s a task that can be daunting.

“Tahlequah is but one area that lies within our 14-county jurisdiction,” said Merriman. “Not only do we work with Cherokee families within the 14-counties, we literally have youth cases in 44 states, which could very well increase to all 50 states at any time.”

Merriman said that following the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Cherokee Nation has to be notified any time a report of abuse or neglect occurs involving a Cherokee child. Since the ICWA was established, the tribe has developed a special unit that deals with Cherokee youth outside its jurisdiction.

“We had call from Maine just the other day,” said Merriman. “We work with an amazing number of children from other states. Sometimes it involves bringing the child back to Tahlequah, and those cases usually result in adoption.”

While Prout understands many agencies work toward family reunification, she doesn’t necessarily believe all parents are cut out raise children.

“There are some people who have children who really have no business doing so,” said Prout.

While family unification is the ultimate goal of the tribe’s CYF Services, Merriman is equally proud of the adoption services they provide.

Cherokee Nation adoption services trains and certifies Indian families and relative homes to be permanent placements for Cherokee and any other Indian children needing permanency when the parental rights have been terminated.

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