2017 Capstone of the Year

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, NC Team

CJJR is delighted to announce that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) team from CJJR’s 2012 Multi-System Integration (MSI) Certificate Program has been awarded the 2017 Capstone of the Year Award.

Pictured from left to right: David Hutchinson, Patricia Long, Hannah Smith and Barbara Parker. (Team members not pictured: Tina Saunooke and Sheena Meader)

Through their Capstone Project, the EBCI team built an integrated juvenile justice and child welfare system using the Results-Based Accountability (RBA) framework. The team also restructured their existing tribal programs, created the Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) within EBCI government, and placed all child- and family-serving systems under one administrative authority in order to deliver a coordinated and effective service model. In October 2015, the PHHS officially began exercising its authority to provide comprehensive child protection and welfare services.

Prior to participating in the 2012 MSI Certificate Program, the EBCI had decided to claim jurisdiction from the state of North Carolina over Cherokee children’s child welfare cases. While the Tribe had always provided juvenile justice services for Cherokee children, it did not have a child welfare system and had delegated the delivery of child protective services to state and county agencies. However, this bifurcated system did not have standardized information-sharing or reporting policies. It was therefore difficult to track and coordinate services for youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, leading to less than optimal outcomes for Cherokee children. The EBCI team attended the MSI Certificate Program to receive training and technical assistance designed to help them establish their own child welfare system.

The development of an integrated child welfare system from the ground up is a long and arduous process that requires sustainable funding, detailed strategic planning, and rigorous review and approval by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Through a Tribal IV-E Plan Development Grant, the EBCI Capstone team developed tribal laws and policies in order to receive funding to support the administration of foster care, child protection services, and family services. The team also incorporated the RBA framework into its law and policies, which allows them to ensure the reliability and consistency of data collection and analysis. To further build the infrastructure of the child welfare system, the team expanded tribal behavioral health and other community-based services and began integrating services from the Family Care Treatment Continuum, a continuum of services designed for youth and families involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. In addition, in 2015 the EBCI Capstone team worked with legislators to amend the tribal juvenile justice laws to increase the maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 16 (consistent with North Carolina law at the time) to 18 years old. This is an astonishing accomplishment given that North Carolina lawmakers have worked on the Raise the Age Initiative for years, and the legislation only just passed in 2017.

Over the past five years, the EBCI has successfully developed and implemented an integrated, comprehensive child welfare system with a robust data tracking structure. Prior to the implementation of the Capstone Project, there were no EBCI-run child protection systems, no licensed EBCI tribal foster homes, and there was minimal collaboration to provide services for Cherokee youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems in North Carolina. As of October 2017, there are 25 licensed tribal foster homes, and typically over 70 percent of the children in care are reunified with parents or in placement with relatives. The Family Safety Program has received over 900 reports of child maltreatment cases involving over 1500 youth, of which 85 percent were screened for investigation. Furthermore, youth and families in the system are supported by teams of social workers and behavioral health providers, and receive therapeutic and psycho-educational services specifically designed to meet their needs. The Tribe also offers financial assistance in the form of Guardianship Assistance for licensed foster home parents who assume legal guardianship of youth in their care.

The current Capstone team members include:

  • Hannah Smith, Assistant Attorney General, EBCI
  • Barbara Parker, Director of Human Services, EBCI
  • David Hutchinson, Shared Vision Consulting, LLC
  • Patricia Long, Shared Vision Consulting, LLC
  • Tina Saunooke, former Community Coordinator, Zero to Three Court and current Director of Dora Reed Pre-School, EBCI
  • Sheena Meader, former Associate Attorney, EBCI and current Title IV-E Consultant

We congratulate the EBCI Capstone team and look forward to their ongoing efforts to build “Healthy, Intact Homes for All Cherokee Children!”

About the Capstone of the Year Award

The Capstone of the Year Award recognizes the Certificate Program participant or team that has made the most significant progress through their Capstone Project in promoting the well-being of youth through multi-system approaches in their community. All CJJR Fellows are eligible to receive the award, regardless of the year of their participation in a Certificate Program. The winner of the award receives a personalized team plaque and is awarded free tuition and travel for one person to attend a future CJJR Certificate Program of their choosing.

First awarded in March 2012, this award serves to honor and recognize the success, innovation, and tremendous work of CJJR Fellows through their Capstone Projects. In the past few years, we have awarded teams and individuals focusing on a wide variety of topics: Peter Forbes and Lisa Belmarsh’s work to improve outcomes of crossover youth in Massachusetts, particularly at the detention decision point; Leah (van Lingen) Panuzzo’s work to expand early identification and treatment services to prevent youth from entering the delinquency system in San Diego, California; Kathleen Sande’s work in bolstering education services in youth’s re-entry process in Washington State; and the Fairfax County, Virginia team’s work to implement structured decision-making tools and expand their community diversion program.

The EBCI team from North Carolina participated in the 2012 MSI Certificate Program – a week-long program designed to train leaders on how to improve outcomes for youth known to the child welfare, juvenile justice, and related systems through a multi-disciplinary approach that features integration and collaboration. The purpose of the program is to unite current and future leaders and increase their knowledge on multi-system reform, cultivate their leadership skills, improve the operation of their organizations, and create a network of individuals across the country committed to systems improvement and reform. Upon completion of the Certificate Program, participants become CJJR Fellows by designing and implementing a Capstone Project focused on multi-system reform in their jurisdiction. CJJR currently has over 850 Fellows who benefit from ongoing technical assistance from CJJR and being part of a growing network of mutually supportive leaders across the country.