The Cherokee Children’s Home was started in 1969 when it became evident in the community that children who could not safely remain in their own homes needed a place to stay within the Qualla Boundary. Upon the completion of the first home, 17 children were admitted and the house was quickly at capacity. That same year construction began on the second home and it was completed in 1970 and it quickly filled with 17 other children. A final home was built the next year and it too filled to capacity.
Since these early days many steps have been taken to ensure the safety of children not only in the Qualla Boundary but throughout the nation. All group homes such as the Cherokee Children’s Home must be licensed in the state they are in. Since its beginnings the Cherokee Children’s Home has been a permanent or temporary home to over 1,700 youth.
Life at the Children’s Home
Currently the Children’s Home has a licensed capacity of 13 children. At the Children’s Home children learn what life can be like in a typical Native American home. They learn the value of a consistent daily routine, the importance of chores and taking care of one’s hygiene and personal appearance. They will get involved with individual as well as family counseling. They get help with homework and grades nearly always improve. The children also receive regular health and dental care.
The main goal of the Children’s Home is to aid the family and/or the Department of Social Services in meeting as many of the well-being needs of the child as possible while in care and help in any way to reunify the family if that plan is appropriate. The Children’s Home can help the parents learn the routine and schedule of the children during increased visitation opportunities. The Children’s Home can work with the child and family until reunification becomes possible or until adoptions are finalized if the child is unable to return to the biological home.
The Cherokee Children’s Home is licensed by the State of North Carolina which means that a child from anywhere in the state could possibly be admitted into the Children’s Home to stay until it was approved by a District Court Judge for the child to return home or become adopted. During the past three years however the Children’s Home has had a total of one child to stay at the Children’s Home for any length of time who was not an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
The main purpose of the Children’s Home is to provide a home for Cherokee children as there are currently only two licensed foster homes on the EBCI Qualla Boundary, one of which is in Robbinsville, NC. The Indian Child Welfare Act states that Indian Children who have to be removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or dependency or the family’s inability to care for them should be placed within their community. The necessity for this law is that Native American children who need to be removed from their home should remain in their community and have involvement in their culture and community activities.
This law was developed to preserve the culture of some of the most vulnerable Native American children and takes precedent over State law and policies. Prior to this law’s existence, adoption of Native American Children by Non-Native Families was seen as a major reason for decline in Native American Culture.