Deborah Yates: Energizing child support warriors
Over the course of the last twenty years, visionary “child support warriors” have led efforts to establish a tribal child support initiative. Although the road has been long and the challenges many, improving the well-being of tribal children has always been the ultimate goal. It is the prize that has kept tribal, federal, and state leaders committed to this sometimes arduous task.

Today, there are 42 federally recognized and funded tribes involved in tribal child support; 33 are comprehensive IV-D child support enforcement agencies, capable of providing the full range of child support services. By definition, the “comprehensive” tribal programs may issue, modify and enforce support orders, establish paternity and locate absent parents.

And by print time, there may be more, as nine tribes are in the start-up phase as this article is being written. These tribes, whether start-up or comprehensive, are located from Alaska to Arizona to up-state New York. They are located all across Indian Country just like the Native American children we serve.

Tribal enrollment numbers vary from a few hundred -- for example, the Kaw Nation and Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma -- to the Nation’s two largest tribes: the Cherokee Nation and the Navajo Nation, which number citizens in the hundreds of thousands. To date, more than $60 million has been collected by all of these programs.

It may be instructive to look at tribal progress from an historical perspective. Although the 54 states and territories have been sanctioned to provide child support enforcement services since the inception of the Title IV-D program in 1975, tribes did not officially became part of the CSE program until the passage of welfare reform in 1996. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) allowed tribes to join in the IV-D program and authorized the operation of tribal CSE programs and tribal cooperative agreements with state IV-D agencies.

The First Annual Tribal Child Support Enforcement Conference was held in August 2001. Hosted by the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and the American Indian Institute, the purpose of this conference was to provide discussions and information about the interim regulations on tribal child support enforcement and tribal partnerships with local, state, and federal governments.

As a result of this conference, the National Tribal Child Support Association (NTCSA) was established. The NTCSA’s purpose is to provide a national resource for tribal efforts to serve Native American children through child support programs. The NTSCA is committed to uniting tribal, state, and federal programs as the voice for Indian children.

NTSCA is a nonprofit organization that partners with tribal, state, and federal professionals to improve the quality of life for Indian children through communication, training, and public awareness. The organization’s stated objective is to benefit Indian children and develop, promote, and enhance family values by bringing together tribal programs such as tribal and CFR courts, Head Start, and Indian child welfare and domestic violence programs.

This year’s NTCSA conference, “Together We Can,” is co-hosted by the Forest County Potawatomi Community and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community with support from the Oneida Nation Child Support Program. Please find registration/hotel info at the NTCSA website: www.supporttribalchildren.org.

We hope our attendees will laugh hard, have a good time, share ideas, and learn from one other. Our goal is to have each person return home energized, revitalized, full of ideas, and enriched with beneficial skills. We believe the passion of “child support warriors” will be ignited for some and re-energized for others.

Deborah Yates (Osage) is the Director of the Comanche Nation Child Support Program and President of the National Tribal Child Support Association (NTCSA). She is an ex officio member of the National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) Board of Directors and Western Interstate Child Support Enforcement Council (WICSEC) Board Affiliate.

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