Indian Children, A Road Less Traveled

Attorney Angel Smith recently told her amazing personal story, interwoven with the primary points of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) at a workshop for DHS child care workers.
Born a 6th generation Cherokee baby, Smith survived a traumatic journey through the foster care system and is now an attorney advocating for Indian children.

Acknowledging “echoes” of the Baby Veronica case, as a child Smith was at the heart of a 5-year legal battle over application of the federal Act. Her difficulties and numerous moves among homes did not stop there.

She knows first-hand the critical importance of placing Indian children entering the child custody system with foster care families aligned with the tribe of the child.

At the first of two trainings for DHS workers, Smith said ICWA is a child’s pathway into tribal history and heritage. “Your clients (Indian children) have rights as Indian citizens.”

There are few Indian foster homes available throughout all the tribes, leading to difficulty maintaining “our unique racial ancestry.
But, ICWA is U.S. policy that it is in the best interest of children to remain connected to their families and their tribes.”

She encouraged child welfare workers that they can “cushion, funnel and flow” the child through the foster system, mitigating trauma similar to Smith’s journey. Her story within the system ended with an eventual “lucky partnership” involving her grandparents and foster family working together for an adult adoption.

She maintains a close relationship with her siblings, members of her biological and adopted families.

Good News for Foster Families

Foster parents in Oklahoma have a newly named ombudsman to help them resolve complaints or grievances with OKDHS.

Lisa Buck, Oklahoma City, with numerous years of experience in professional advocacy and as a foster parent, is heading a new position in DHS’ Office of Client Advocacy, which promotes client safety and professional delivery of services.

A 2014 state law mandated a new complaint process be established for foster parents and required collaboration between DHS’ advocacy office and the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth.

To submit a grievance:
1-866-335-9288 or complete the form at okfosterparentvoices.org