Transition stipend announced for Cherokee youth ‘aging out’ of foster system

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner are creating a $500 monthly transition stipend for Cherokee youth who are “aging out” of the foster system, the tribal nation announced in a press release. Cherokee Nation is also providing a one-time COVID-19 impact payment of $1,000 to the tribe’s more than 80 current foster families.

The announcement of the two new programs was made Monday as Cherokee Nation leaders gathered to sign a proclamation declaring May as Foster Care Awareness Month.

“Strong families are the foundation of our communities and the Cherokee Nation. They provide love, identity, self-esteem and support to our Cherokee children,” Chief Hoskin said. “As Cherokee people, our traditional values have shown that we often share in helping to raise, nurture and teach Cherokee youth. I am particularly proud of the work of our First Lady, January Hoskin, who uses her platform to spread awareness of issues such as our need for foster families to support Cherokee children. Both of the initiatives we are announcing – a monthly transition stipend for Cherokee youth ‘aging out’ of the foster care system, and the one-time COVID assistance payment to current Cherokee foster families – will provide much-needed support to Cherokees.”

The Fostering HOPE pilot program will provide a $500 monthly stipend to eligible Cherokee Nation citizens who are aging out of the Cherokee Nation or State of Oklahoma foster care systems upon turning 18 years old. Eligible citizens in the state’s foster care system must reside within the Cherokee Nation Reservation. There are no residency requirements for citizens who are in the Cherokee Nation foster care system.

Participants must be employed, actively seeking employment, or working toward career training or a degree program within the first two months of participation in order to continue in the program. Monthly stipends can begin the month a participant turns 18 years old and end at age 21. Those who are actively working toward a career training or degree program at age 21 may remain in the program until age 23 or until their training or degree is complete.

“All children are a precious resource. They deserve love and care, regardless of their background,” said First Lady January Hoskin. “Children in foster care face unique challenges, particularly when they age out of the system. Many who age out face adulthood with little or no support. This monthly stipend and continued interaction with Cherokee Nation staff will make a positive impact on their lives as they become self-sufficient.”

As part of their participation, Cherokee Nation citizens enrolled in the Fostering HOPE program will meet with a program counselor every two months, complete financial wellness curriculum four times per year, and must meet other eligibility requirements as outlined by the tribe. The pilot program will begin June 1 with enrollment ceasing Dec. 31, 2024.

“The work of our Cherokee foster families can be difficult, but I know it is also a huge blessing that touches those families and the Cherokee youth they embrace and love now and into the future,” Deputy Chief Warner said. “Today, we have more than 80 active Cherokee foster homes and more than 1,200 Cherokee youth in foster care across the United States. Unfortunately, the work our foster families do, the difference they make, can sometimes go unseen by those who are unfamiliar with the needs and demands of the system. I am so proud of the Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare department for the work they do to collaborate with state and faith-based partners to ensure our children are protected, and that the work of our Cherokee foster families does not go unnoticed. Scripture tells us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, and these men and women are doing that work each and every day.”

Both programs announced Monday will be funded through the tribe’s Respond, Recover and Rebuild COVID-19 relief initiative.

Enrollment details for the $500 monthly stipend will be announced soon through the Cherokee Nation Human Services department.

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