TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Chief Bryan Warner met with members of the Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Task Force to discuss early childhood care initiatives to help fill some of the gaps in child care that the discussion needed has.
Included in the list of initiatives they discussed was a 35 percent raise for childcare workers within the tribe and the creation of Flexible Spending Accounts to help with childcare expenses within the subjects’ tribe.
Hoskin created the Early Childhood Task Force in March 2022 to identify areas of opportunity and need regarding early childhood care within the Cherokee Nation Reservation.
The task force was created as part of the Verna D. Thompson Early Childhood Education Act created in 2021 by Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner. It is investing up to $40 million to replace or rehabilitate all of the tribe’s Head Start centers.
“Whether you need childcare directly, someone in your family needs childcare, someone in your community needs it, or maybe you will need childcare at some point in the future, this is an issue that affects us all, Hoskin said. “We want young Cherokees to have great opportunities in childcare, which is an important part of their development. We want to make sure these services are available directly through the Cherokee Nation with places like our child development centers, or the private partners we work with in a variety of capacities. We want the best for the Cherokee people, and child care is an area where we can make a positive impact. One critical component of the Verna D. Thompson Early Childhood Education Act included a comprehensive review of all early childhood educational services on the reservation for Cherokee citizens. The task force met, they thoroughly reviewed those services through the discussion, and we have a number of new initiatives that we believe will make generational impacts for our citizens and allow us to seize the opportunity to close any gaps that can exist while we build on our successes.”
Hoskin and Warner said Cherokee Nation’s early childhood care workers will receive a 35 percent pay raise in response to the task force’s comprehensive review and Cherokee Nation has already surpassed the national salary average for child care workers.
The tribe also plans to provide bonuses when hiring for early childhood care positions, and provide increased educational opportunities for the early childhood care workforce through Cherokee Nation Career Services.
“Families are always looking for a good place where they can provide their children with important life skills at an early age. We know each community has different, individual needs, so taking a strategic approach is critical to being successful,” said Warner. “That’s why I appreciate the portfolio of initiatives that resulted from the meetings of this task force.”
The Cherokee Nation said they will also contribute $2,000 per child to the FSA to be used for child care needs. This will allow employees to save pre-tax funds, reducing overall childcare costs.
The tribe will work with Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) to build a new child care facility on CNB’s Hard Rock property in Catoosa to bring reliable, affordable child care to area employees.
“Identifying communities that don’t have enough child care and then acting quickly shows what we can do if we listen and work together,” said Keith Austin, tribal council member of the Cherokee Nation. “A new child care center on our CNB corporate campus in Catoosa will serve the entire community and is just one of many opportunities we have to increase child care services across the reservation.”
Hoskin and Warner said the tribe will contribute an additional $5 million to the important work of local Boys and Girls Clubs, which provide after-school programs.
Click here for more information on the early childhood task force reports.
©2022 Imagicom Tulsa, Inc.