1. Question: Who is eligible and will be provided Cherokee Nation court services?
Answer: A child must meet certain requirements in order to be served by our court unit:
1. The child must be under the age of 18 and a member or eligible for membership with the Cherokee Nation,
2. the child must have been voluntarily or involuntarily removed from their parent(s) or Indian custodian by a court or child-placing agency,
3. and because of this voluntary or involuntary removal the child is being placed temporarily or permanently with a party other than its parent(s) or Indian custodian for foster or adoption services.
A child meeting these criteria falls under the notice requirements of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act and is provided with Cherokee Nation services though our court and permanency unit.
2. Question: What information do you need to determine if my child is eligible?
Answer There is certain information that must be submitted to the Cherokee Nation in order for a determination of eligibility to be made. The notice requirement is fully discussed under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act in 25 U.S.C. #sect# 1912 (a). Listed is the information required for Cherokee Nation to determine tribal membership.
1. Name and date of birth for the child;
2. Name and date of birth for the natural parents including maiden name of mother;
3. Names and dates of birth for any known direct ancestors such as grandparents and great-grandparents including maiden names of females;
4. A copy of the petition, complaint or other document by which this proceeding was initiated;
5. Names, addresses and telephone numbers of attorneys involved in the action;
6. Name of the judge presiding over the matter and the address of the court where the matter is to be heard:
7. Name, address and telephone number of any state or private social worker involved in the proceeding;
8. Notice of dates and times and location of the scheduled legal proceeding;
9. Statement of the biological parents or Indian custodians, and the Indian tribe to (a) intervene in the proceeding, (b) to petition the court to transfer the proceeding to the tribal court of the Indian child, and (c) to request an additional twenty (20) days from receipt of notice to prepare for the proceeding.
3. Question: To whom do I send the notice requirement information?
Answer: You may send the required notice information to:
P.O. Box 948
Tahlequah, OK 74465
4. Question: How long does it take to get an answer once I have given notification?
Answer: It takes approximately two weeks after we receive the information for you to get a response. This is primarily due to the large number of notifications received, approximately 750 per month, and the research required.
If your response has taken longer than our estimate or you have a special circumstance you may call 1-800-256-0671 and ask for the eligibility unit of Indian Child Welfare or you may email the program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Question: Can you fax the notice information?
Answer: Yes you may, as we will gladly accept this form of notice and the response time is usually quicker, however, we cannot tell you that this will meet compliance with the federal law that states such information should be sent by registered mail with return receipt requested. In the interest of time you may want to fax the information and follow-up with the specific requirements under the law to ensure that your situation will not be open to appeal by other parties under the notice section of the law.
6. Question: What is the least degree of Indian blood you can have and still be eligible?
Answer: There is no percentage blood degree requirement for membership eligibility inclusion with the Cherokee Nation. Any person who can prove to be a direct descendant of an original enrollee of the Dawes Commission Role of 1907-1911 is eligible for our services. This determination of tribal membership eligibility is an exclusive right of the Cherokee Nation.
Each tribe has there own requirements for tribal membership. Only the potential tribe the child might belong to can make a tribal eligibility determination.
7. Question: I know I have Indian heritage, how can I become eligible so the federal Indian Child Welfare Act will apply?
Answer: The only way to become eligible for our services is to verify your tribal membership through the Cherokee Nation registration department. The registration unit can give you guidance is searching your tribal heritage. You may contact them at email@example.com
8. Question: How do I get a worker assigned to my child's court case?
Answer: Families should inform the court system or the agency that took custody of their child of any Indian heritage the child may have and ask for the court or agency to contact Cherokee Nation or other tribe involved. According to Federal law, the courts must notify tribes of impeding court action whenever an Indian child is taken into custody.
The family also has the right to notify the tribe about the court involvement.
After notification, there must be a determination as to whether on not the child meets the eligibility requirements for our programs. The notification information must be supplied as referenced in Question #2. Once a there is a positive eligibility determination, the child is assigned a court worker. That worker's name can be verified by calling 1-800-256-0671 and asking for Indian Child Welfare, if you have legitimate involvement with the child.
9. Question: What does it mean when Cherokee Nation intervenes on a juvenile court case?
Answer: The law states that Cherokee Nation has the right to intervene at any point in the proceeding. This intervention means that Cherokee Nation is now a party to the action and will be submitting reports and recommendations to the court in regards to direction and placement options under the law. Intervention gives the tribe the right to participate in court proceedings and places the court on notice that the child involved is an Indian child and subject to all the protections that the law provides.
10. Question: Does my child have to be a registered member of the Cherokee Nation before a worker can be assigned to the court case?
Answer: No. Your child does not have to currently be a member but the child must be eligible for membership before a worker can be assigned.
11. Question: Why are some Cherokee children placed into tribal custody while other Cherokee children are placed into state custody?
Answer: Initial jurisdiction is determined by where the child is located at the time court action becomes necessary. If an Indian child is found on state land the state court system has the authority to take an Indian child into their court system. The same applies if a child is on tribal or trust land, the tribal court system has the authority to take an Indian child into their court system. However, this initial jurisdiction does not prohibit a later transfer of jurisdiction from state court to tribal court if the child and family can be better served in the tribal system.
When a child is in the jurisdiction of the state, Cherokee Nation has concurrent jurisdiction in state custody matters and will often opt to work collaboratively with the state to ensure the family has access to services from both the state and Cherokee Nation. Children who are under the jurisdiction of the tribe or have been transferred to tribal custody are in the exclusive care, custody and control of the tribe and have no connection with the state court system.