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Foster Care: Putting Children First

All children deserve a loving and safe home.

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Foster Care Program is working hard to do just that. But it needs your help.

Each May, the Foster Care Program honors, reunites and celebrates their families during National Foster Care Awareness Month. But the momentum from the awareness push can’t end in May; the program works every day to encourage Community members and employees to become licensed foster care families.

The program aims to raise awareness about foster care and encourages anyone and everyone to get involved in the lives of these children, who are the Community’s future. The SRPMIC has its own Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Unit housed within the Family Advocacy Department. They play a role in helping American Indian families adopt American Indian children.

ICWA is a federal law that aims to keep American Indian and Alaska Native children involved in child-custody matters placed with American Indian and Alaska Native families. If a child is enrolled or is eligible to enroll with an American Indian federally recognized tribe, the child’s family or tribe may utilize ICWA to its full advantage regarding decisions on various services and placement of the child.

A report titled Time for Reform: A Matter of Justice for American Indian and Alaska Native Children found that, nationally, American Indian and Alaska Native children were reported to the state and found to be victims of child abuse and neglect at the rate of 16.5 per 1,000 American Indian and Alaska Native children. This rate compares with 19.5 per 1,000 for African American children, 16.1 per 1,000 for Pacific Islander children, 10.8 per 1,000 for White children and 10.7 per 1,000 for Hispanic children. Native American children are more likely than children of other races/ethnicities to be identified as victims of neglect (65.5 percent), and they are least likely to be identified as victims of physical abuse (7.3 percent).

Many tribes face monetary issues when it comes to caring for foster children. The SRPMIC is fortunate to be able to provide group homes and emergency foster parents here within the Community to help care for enrolled SRPMIC children. However, the program is still working hard to cultivate more SRPMIC and Native families willing to foster and eventually permanently adopt Community children.

The Foster Care Program offers a 10-week training program for potential tribal foster homes. Training focuses on the needs of children in foster care and the development and maintenance of appropriate tribal foster homes. Classes meet once a week for three hours.

“We are always looking for either Community families or Native American families to step forward to become licensed,” said SRPMIC Senior Social Worker/Case Manager Avarae John in 2016.

For questions related to becoming a foster parent, call Social Services at (480) 362-5645.