After signing the agreement, Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson takes a picture of Central Council President Richard Peterson doing the same. The signing ceremony took place at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Wednesday night.

After signing the agreement, Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson takes a picture of Central Council President Richard Peterson doing the same. The signing ceremony took place at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Wednesday night.

Historic agreement gives tribe foster care control

When children are taken out of their homes due to neglect or abuse, they’re under the responsibility and jurisdiction of the State Office of Children’s Services. 

Now, through an agreement signed Wednesday night at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall between the State of Alaska and Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, the Central Council will be able to take over child welfare cases of tribal children. 

Instead of going through the state court system, these cases will go through the tribal court system. Instead of state workers overseeing the cases, tribal case managers will work with families. Instead of the state licensing the foster homes, Central Council will recruit and license tribal foster homes and be reimbursed by the state for the cost of foster care placement. 

“This truly is a government-to-government agreement that recognizes that tribes are uniquely and supremely and ultimately qualified to be able to meet the needs of tribal families,” said Valerie Davidson, Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner. “That’s not new. And quite frankly — if I may as an Alaska Native — we have known that for thousands of years.” 

Barbara Dude is a child welfare specialist with Central Council’s Tribal Family & Youth Services. She said parents trying to get their children back will have a better working relationship with a tribal entity than with the state, and be more successful at reunification. 

“Families are just more willing to work with us because we’re the tribal workers. They’re more willing to sit down with us and help their case plans,” Dude said. 

She also noted that tribal court “is just a friendlier environment.”

President Richard Peterson said Central Council has been working toward the agreement for 16 years and thanked the Office of Children’s Services for working collaboratively. He said Alaska Native families continue to work through issues stemming from historical trauma and the agreement “will begin putting our families back together.”

Central Council will start by taking just a few Juneau cases from the state. Right now, 24 Tlingit and Haida children are in foster homes, the majority of which are in Juneau, according to the Office of Children’s Services.

Francine Eddy Jones, director of Central Council’s Tribal Family & Youth Services, said it’s important to be methodical and cautious.

“It’s a process of learning together — Office of Children’s Services, the tribe, the state court and tribal court — to figure out what that handoff looks like,” she said.

Jones said Central Council hopes to provide a lot of support and encouragement to families who’ve had children taken away and tribal foster families, many of whom don’t trust the state.

“It really means taking care of our own,” Jones said. “It means being responsible and respectful and honoring them with the values of the tribe, making sure we’re holding up those families whatever that situation is for why their children are removed, embrace them and provide them the support and services they need to get back on their feet, and hopefully be reunited with their children. That’s our commitment.”

This is only the second such agreement between the state and a tribe. The first was with the Tanana Chiefs Conference in 2013. 

• Contact reporter Lisa Phu at 523-2246 or lisa.phu@juneauempire.com.


More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of May 18

Here’s what to expect this week.

Juneau high school seniors Edward Hu of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé (left), Elizabeth Djajalie of Thunder Mountain High School (center) and Kenyon Jordan of Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi Alternative High School. (Photos of Hu and Jordan by Juneau Empire staff, photo of Djajalie by Victor Djajalie)
Senior Spotlight 2024: Three top students take very different paths to graduation stage

Ceremonies for Juneau’s three high schools take place Sunday.

The entrance road to Bartlett Regional Hospital. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)
Bartlett Regional Hospital looking at eliminating or trimming six ‘non-core’ programs to stabilize finances

Rainforest Recovery Center, autism therapy, crisis stabilization, hospice among programs targeted.

A king salmon. (Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Biden administration advances bid to list Gulf of Alaska king salmon as endangered or threatened

Experts say request could restrict activity affecting river habitats such as road, home construction

Mayor Beth Weldon (left), Deputy Mayor Michelle Bonnet Hale and Juneau Assembly member Paul Kelly discussion proposals for next year’s mill rate during an Assembly Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday night. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Assembly members support lower 10.04 mill rate ahead of final vote on next year’s CBJ budget

Initial proposal called for raising current rate of 10.16 mills to 10.32 mills.

Dave Scanlan, general manager of Eaglecrest Ski Area, speaks to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee on April 13, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Dave Scanlan forced out as Eaglecrest’s general manager, says decision ‘came as a complete shock to me’

Resort’s leader for past 7 years says board seeking a “more office-process, paper-oriented” manager.

The entrance to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.’s Anchorage office is seen on Aug. 11, 2023. The state-owned AGDC is pushing for a massive project that would ship natural gas south from the North Slope, liquefy it and send it on tankers from Cook Inlet to Asian markets. The AGDC proposal is among many that have been raised since the 1970s to try commercialize the North Slope’s stranded natural gas. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Eight young Alaskans sue to block proposed trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline

Plaintiffs cite climate change that harms their access to fish, wildlife and natural resources.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, May 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read