Projects & Programs


The Gadugi (ᎦᏚᎩ) Project

Kinship caregivers are a primary resource for vulnerable children to have a safe environment while maintaining connections to their culture and community. However, without support, many kinship caregivers struggle to work effectively with the parents of the children in their care and to access the resources necessary to meet their own needs as caregivers. Many kinship caregivers struggle with the financial strain of additional household members and are not given adequate preparation to meet the complex emotional needs of children that have been through trauma. Many kinship caregivers feel that they do not have a voice in the decision-making process, and do not know how to navigate legal processes to obtain permanency for the children in their care.

Many families that successfully reunify after their children have been in foster care struggle to maintain stability and safety after system supports are withdrawn when their case closes. Families with children entering foster care are often isolated from natural supports due to substance use and other challenges, and without intentionality around rebuilding organic supports, families which may succeed with support from Family Safety lack the capacity to continue in their success when child welfare system supports are removed.

The Family Safety Program (FSP), in partnership with the Cherokee Court System (Tribal Courts), Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Information Technology Department (IT), Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Communications Department (Communications), Heart to Heart Children’s Advocacy Center (Heart to Heart), Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Legal Assistance Office (LAO), and University of Washington (UW), intends to utilize these funds to implement and evaluate a multifaceted, family-centered approach to expand the capacity of kinship caregivers and reunified families to maintain safety and stability for the children in their care. Services will include Family Group Decision Making, Caregiver Education, a Caregiver Resource Website/Phone Application, and enhanced access to Kinship Foster Care Licensing. Services will work together to form a sustainable, culturally integrated, and community-supported system in which vulnerable families are seamlessly wrapped in supportive relationships and accessible resources, so that reunified families can remain safe and stable, and kinship caregivers have what their family needs to thrive.

The geographic area for the provision of services is all Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Trust lands. The Family Safety Program is housed within the Division of Public Health and Human Services, an entity of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tribal government. The populations served through this project will be formal and informal kinship caregivers in this geographic area and families that have reunified or are in the process of reunifying from children being placed in Family Safety Program custody.