Keeping Kids Connected

There are many ways to keep kids connected to their tribes.

  1. Contact your OKDHS Child Welfare Specialist or the ICW Department of tribe the foster children belong to for information on programs available.
  2. Contact that tribes culture department or language department for ideas and materials.
  3. Take the foster child to tribal activities!  This can be found on the tribes website.
  4. Locate books for the child on their Tribe’s Traditions or stories.

Importance of Culture Identity

It is important to understand that each person has experienced their cultural connection in a unique way. An individual’s own personal and family history will determine their cultural identity and practices which may change throughout their lifespan as they are exposed to different experiences.

The variation of cultural identity in AI/AN people can be viewed as a continuum that ranges between one who views himself as traditional and lives their traditional culture daily, to one who views himself as Indian or native, but has little knowledge or interest in their traditional cultural practices. 

Many Ai/AN families are multicultural and adapt to their surrounding culture. From the 50’s to 70’s and thousands being adopted out, were raised with little awareness or knowledge of their culture.

Age is another cultural identity consideration. Elders can be very traditional while younger people can either be multicultural or non-traditional. Many communities leaders and elders are worried about the loss of language and tradition. Whereas other communities the young are learning their culture and language.


Cultural identity and ethnic price result in greater school success, lower alcohol and drug use and higher social functioning in Native children, adolescents and young adults.

Native Children, adolescents and young adults involved in their tribal communities and cultural activities have lower rates of depression, alcohol use and antisocial behavior.

Tribal language, ceremonies, and traditions are linked to a reduced risk of delinquent behavior for Native Children, adolescents and young adults.

Children fare better when placed with family, in community, and connected to culture. Recent studies show that all children fare better when placed with relatives. This is true for AI/AN children. ICWA promotes connection to culture, elders, and community, thus promoting resiliency and well-being.

All above is according to NICWA.

Roadmap to Fostering NA Children

Navigating the DHS and Tribal world can be a challenge. Here a few tips to help you along the way and Thank you for fostering our Native American/Alaskan Indian children! 

This guide is to help keep your Native American/Alaskan Indian foster child/children connected to their heritage. When a child stays connected to their Tribe/Culture it gives the child/children their own identity and they have better self-esteem.

Things to know…

Ask the OKDHS Specialist the following:

  1. Ask which tribe the child belongs to.
  2. Ask for a copy of the Tribal membership Card and CDIB Card (Certificate of Indian Blood).
  3. If the child/children do not have a Tribal membership card or CDIB card, ask who can assist in obtaining this (only the DHS Specialist or ICW worker can do this).
  4. If the child/children are eligible to be members of more than one tribe, it is up to the natural/biological Parents to decide. If the parents are not involved, refer to the tribes involved in the case.
  5. Ask who the ICW worker will be from the tribe that will be assigned (not all tribes will assign an Indian Child Welfare worker to the case). If the Child Welfare Specialist does not know, contact an OKDHS Tribal Coordinator to assist you.
  6. Each tribe offers different resources for tribal children, such as cultural camps during the summer or on-line language classes. Please refer to their website.
  7. Completing the Circle is an annual event DHS and Tribes collaborate together on to assist in keeping children connected to their culture. The below website is a site in progress but will eventually have cultural contact/website information which will be easily accessible to Foster Parents and Native Children.

Ask an ICW Worker (also known as a Tribal Worker):

  1. Ask what programs/resources are available to the child and how to access them. Some tribes have cultural packets they send out and some do not. 
  2. Some Tribes will require the child to live in their Tribal Jurisdiction to access programs or Resources.
  3. Ask for any customs or ceremonies you should be aware of to ensure the child stays connected to their culture. Ask about cutting the child’s/children’s hair.

If there is no ICW worker:

  1. If there is not an ICW worker assigned to the case, locate the Tribal Website and go to the Culture tab on the site. There should be a contact number or email to ask the above questions. Some tribes will have Elders who can advise you.
  2. If you are unable to locate Tribal Information on their website, contact an OKDHS Tribal Coordinator to assist you.

If you live in Tulsa County:

  1. The case will be heard in the new ICWA Court. ICWA Court is a state ran court which hears all the Native American cases on one specific day and by a specific Judge. Tulsa County also has ICWA units who the case will be assigned to. An ICWA unit is simply a unit who works more closely with tribes. 
  2. If you have additional concerns or questions, ask your OKDHS Specialist or an OKDHS Tribal Coordinator.

Every Tribe is different and unique.

There are 38 Federally Recognized Tribes in Oklahoma. The majority of these tribes only have one or two ICW workers on staff to serve the entire United States.

Tribes are Sovereign Nations and can choose to become involved or not involved at any time during the life of the case. (Think of a Tribe as if it is a Country with their own policies and laws).

Each Tribe has their own placement preferences but can change the order at any time. 

If a child does not live in their Tribal jurisdiction to access programs/resources, but lives in another Tribe’s jurisdiction, you can contact that tribe to see if they serve Native American children who are not members of their tribe. Not all tribes do this, so please contact the Tribe in which you live in their jurisdiction.

Adopting a Native American Child

  1. There must be a Good Cause Hearing for or all placements-kinship, tribal and non-tribal and adoption.
  2. The tribe must agree to the adoption and sign documents stating such.
  3. If the child is eligible to be a member of two or three or however many tribes, then please ensure this is in the adoption papers. This is important because as the child becomes an adult they may identify with one of the other and choose to enroll or unenrolled in such tribe.

Hair Care

In several tribes, a being’s hair can represent a close cultural identity. This close identity to culture promotes self-esteem, sense of belonging and self-respect. As part of practicing self-respect, Native children are taught to take good care of their hair and to let it grow. Please do not cut a child’s hair until it has been approved by the Child’s tribe and parents. 

Activities to keep foster children connected to their culture

Community and Cultural Outreach

Community and Cultural Outreach is available to all families and there are different cultural activities, camps, and cultural information available to do both in person and online.

Cherokee Nation Attractions, Events and Exhibits, Culture and History

The listed places on the Visit Cherokee Nation website can be visited in person or there is an option to virtually view the following cultural attractions including the Cherokee National History Museum, Cherokee Nation Prison Museum, Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum, Sequoyah’s Cabin Museum, John Ross Museum, Saline Courthouse Museum, and the Cherokee Heritage Center.

Cherokee Language: Information for learning Cherokee

The Cherokee Language Learning Materials page gives information for children’s books, coloring books, activities, and teaching materials to learn the Cherokee Language. It also has information about the Mango Language App which is an option to learn the Cherokee language for free. Download the free Mango Languages app, create an account, and choose Cherokee from the list of language options.

Osiyo TV

Osiyo TV presents 30 minute episodes of Cherokee traditions and features people, places, history, language, and the culture of the Cherokee Nation. Currently, the seventh season is airing and all previous seasons can be viewed for free at the previous listed website or the show can be viewed on YouTube and broadcast on OETA, AETN, FNX, RSUTV, KSN, and KODE.

Cherokee Voices, Cherokee Sounds

Hosted by Cherokee National Treasure, Dennis Sixkiller. The show is primarily broadcast in the Cherokee language and features a fun mix of Cherokee guests, music, culture, and news.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can help a child and family in need by becoming a foster parent, please call the toll-free statewide OKDHS foster/adoptive family recruitment hotline at 866-612-2565 or visit the OKDHS Foster Care Program website.

If you are Native American, please contact your Tribal ICWA department.

Oklahoma Human Services.

If you have questions about the conference, please contact Jayci Howerton at 580-318-1032.