Children, Youth & Family Services

The Cherokee Nation’s Children, Youth & Family Services department is a fully integrated support system for children and families who need stability and consistency in times of crisis or uncertainty.


Programs administered by Children, Youth & Family Services include:

John A. Ketcher Youth Center
Child Protective Services
Court Advocacy and Permanency Services
Certification, Adoption and Placement
Cherokee Nation Angel Tree

The foundation for the services provided by the Cherokee Nation Children, Youth and Family Services department is the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (25 U.S.C. § 1902).

The Indian Child Welfare Act

The authority to provide adoption programs and court advocacy and permanency services was established by the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act passed by Congress in 1978. This act was passed to ensure that Indian tribes remain intact and families remain connected to their individual family members and communities. By establishing this act, Congress gave authority to tribes to exercise their status as sovereign nations by administering child welfare services for their tribal citizens. This act defines the tribe's role in child custody and welfare proceedings and recognizes that “there is no resource that is more vital to the continued existence and integrity of Indian tribes than their own children.” The Indian Child Welfare Act recognizes three placement preferences:

•  Within that child's extended family
•  Within that child's tribe
•  Within another federally recognized tribe

Divorce custody matters are not part of the Indian Child Welfare Act. For more information on the Indian Child Welfare Act, please visit

John A. Ketcher Youth Center

The mission of the Cherokee Nation’s John A. Ketcher Youth Center is to strengthen the wellness of children, youth and families through prevention and redirecting those who have gotten off track. Strong, healthy individuals who live free of violence, drugs and alcohol are the foundation of vibrant communities, and vibrant communities help to preserve the Cherokee culture and promote family self-sufficiency. Named in honor of Cherokee statesman, former Deputy Chief and former tribal council member John A. Ketcher, the center has three main components:

•  Emergency youth shelter 
•  Juvenile first time offender program 
•  Community outreach and prevention education 

All services at the John A. Ketcher Youth Center are free of charge and to open to everyone regardless of race.

Mailing address:
Cherokee Nation Youth Services
PO Box 948
Tahlequah, OK 74465

Physical address:
John A. Ketcher Youth Services Center
21834 S. Jules Valdez Road
Tahlequah, OK 74464

Office: 918-458-4440
FAX: 918-458-7655
Toll Free: 877-696-8890 (Oklahoma only)

Emergency Youth Shelter

The emergency youth shelter is a short-term residential option for runaways, homeless, abused, neglected, and other youth facing family conflicts and other crisis situations. The shelter serves an average of 200 youth annually and has operated since 1978.

Juvenile First Time Offender program

The goal of the juvenile first time offender program is to redirect the paths of young people facing first time misdemeanor charges by offering alternative means of dealing with the violation. It requires children ages 10-17 to participate in a minimum 14 hour course, including community service. This program is currently offered in Cherokee County.

Community Outreach & Prevention Education

Counseling services are available to young people at home, school, or other community setting that is most effective for his or her particular crisis. Counseling services are also available for youth that have left the shelter and returned home. This aspect of the John A. Ketcher Youth Center also offers community education, working with individuals, agencies and communities in promoting safe and healthy home environments. The target area for the outreach counseling is in Cherokee County.

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Child Protective Services

Cherokee Nation Child Protective Services accepts, investigates and records all reports of alleged abuse and neglect of Cherokee children and provides protection to Indian children on Indian lands. Child Protective Services also works with the Department of Human Services to investigate the abuse or mistreatment of Cherokee children residing outside the Cherokee Nation. The primary responsibility of Child Protective Services is to assess the safety of the child and take the appropriate action to protect and promote the best interest of the child.

What is child abuse?

Child abuse is defined by law as harm or threatened harm to a child's health and welfare through acts or neglect by the child's parent(s), legal guardian or caretaker.

•  Physical Abuse: non-accidental physical injury to a child under the age of 18. 
•  Physical Neglect: failure to provide a child under the age of 18 with basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care, educational opportunity, protection or supervision. 
•  Sexual Abuse: sexual exploitation of a child or adolescent for the gratification of the perpetrator or another person. 
•  Psychological Maltreatment: rejecting, terrorizing, isolating, exploiting, corrupting, and/or denying emotional responsiveness.

Who is required to report child abuse? 

Federal, Tribal and State law requires EVERY PERSON, whether private citizen or professional, with reasonable cause to believe that a child under 18 is being abused or is in danger of being abused, to report the suspicion of abuse. Reports can be made to the Department of Human Services (DHS) in the county where the child resides or to a statewide hotline number designated for such a purpose.

When should someone report child abuse?

A report should be made when there is reasonable cause to believe that a child or adolescent has been abused or neglected or is in danger of being abused. A report of suspected abuse is only a request for an investigation. The person making the report does not need to prove the abuse prior to making the report. Investigation and validation of child abuse reports is the responsibility of child protective services. If additional incidents of abuse occur after the initial report has been made, the reporting party should contact child protective services again.

How should an abuse report be made? 

A report can be made to any county office of the Department of Human Services. Child abuse can also be reported 24 hours per day, seven days per week by calling the statewide child abuse hotline.

Statewide Child Abuse Hotline: 800-522-3511

You can also contact Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare Intake at 918-458-6900.

What information is needed when reporting abuse? 

When reporting child abuse, the following information will be requested. Failure to have all the information available should not prevent a person from reporting the abuse. However, certain information is vital to locate the child and provide some indication of what to expect when the child protective services worker investigates. Prior to opening an investigation, pertinent information to provide includes

•  Name of the child and family members 
•  Approximate age of the child (required) and family members 
•  Gender of the child and family members 
•  Family address or directions to the child's home or current location (required)
•  Family phone number 
•  Parents place of employment 
•  Description of suspected abuse (required) 
•  Current condition of the child (required)
Those reporting child abuse can remain anonymous.

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Court Advocacy And Permanency Services

Court Advocacy And Permanency Services (CAPS) provides court advocacy in the tribal and state systems for children and families. This advocacy is to help ensure that Cherokee children and families get the protections offered under the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act as well as any protections offered by the various state Indian Child Welfare Acts. Court and Permanency workers attend court hearings in person or by teleconference to be a voice for Cherokee Nation in the protection of Cherokee children. This unit also provides the planning and linkage to services necessary for families who are working to correct the problems that caused the initial removal of their child. This service is offered for Cherokee children nation-wide, regardless whether or not they reside in Cherokee Nation jurisdiction.

Court And Permanency Services are divided into three units.

Tribal CAPS

Tribal CAPS provides hands-on services to protect the best interests of Cherokee children and families. Sometimes children are removed from homes located within Cherokee Nation jurisdition; sometimes cases transfer into Tribal Court from various State courts. In these cases, it is the tribal CAPS unit and not the state Department of Human Services who has jurisdiction. The Tribal CAPS unit works with families to help solve the problems that led to children being removed from the home. Meanwhile, the CAPS unit seeks out relatives to help care for the children. If there is a service tribal CAPS can't provide, workers will identify and secure those services for the family.

The Tribal CAPS unit makes frequent home visits to families and to foster homes to make sure the needs of the children are being met. The Tribal CAPS unit frequently provides transportation to families to help them complete their services. It is the first goal of the Tribal CAPS unit to ensure the safety of the children while keeping Cherokee families together.

State CAPS

State CAPS provides services to Indian families that are involved in the state court system within the 14-county jurisdictional boundaries of Cherokee Nation. These services are designed to help Cherokee families stay connected or to reunite the family unit that has split apart as a result of child abuse by the custodial caretaker.

State CAPS has Child Welfare Specialists who are assigned to specific counties within the Cherokee Nation jurisdictional boundaries, to help facilitate the protections afforded tribal families under the Oklahoma and Federal Indian Child Welfare Acts. Services are provided to any child who is a citizen or is eligible for citizenship with the Cherokee Nation and has been removed from his or her parents or caretaker through judicial action. 
For families in the state juvenile court system, and who are living in the jurisdictional boundaries of the Cherokee Nation, State CAPS offer the following services:

•  Active involvement in case and court activities to ensure compliance with the Federal and State Indian Child Welfare Acts
•  Advocating and/or establishing the safest and most appropriate environment for a child
•  Cherokee Nation referral and networking services for parents and children
•  Home visits to monitor the placement of children
•  Recommendations that are in the best interest of child and tribe at court hearings
•  Expert testimony on cases 
•  Education and guidance for state social workers, attorneys, court appointed guardians, CASA workers and families on the rights and responsibilities of the judicial system to ensure the protection of Cherokee children under federal and state law

Out-of-District CAPS

Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare also monitors court cases outside the jurisdictional boundaries of the Cherokee Nation that involve Cherokee children in the foster care system. The out of district unit is involved in child welfare matters for Cherokee children in any judicial system across the United States. Children monitored by out of district CAPS workers must be of Cherokee heritage and be involved in a state court child welfare matter outside of Cherokee Nation's 14-county jurisdictional area.

Out of district CAPS offer the following services:

•  Monitoring of court case activity to ensure compliance with the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act and other state and tribal laws that provide protection for Indian children 
•  Permanency planning, including placement with relatives and adoption recommendations as needed 
•  Recommendations to the various courts 
•  Expert testimony
•  Education and guidance for social workers, attorneys, court appointed guardians, CASA workers and families on the rights and responsibilities of the judicial system to ensure the protection of Cherokee children under federal and state law

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Guardianships and Adoptions 

Please visit Homes for Cherokee Kids for applications and additional information.

By passing the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978, Congress guaranteed Indian children the right to stay connected to their tribes. This unit helps ensure that Cherokee children who cannot be cared for by birth parents can benefit from new and permanent ties with Native American families through adoptions or guardianships. This unit is involved in civil guardianships and adoptions of Cherokee children in all state and tribal judicial courts across the United States. The unit assists court parties in the compliance of the Indian Child Welfare Act. For more information on adoption services, email


Guardianship & Adoptions Unit offer the following services:

• Advocating and/or establishing the safest and most appropriate environment for a child
• Cherokee Nation referral and networking services for parents and children
• Home assessments to determine safe living environment.
• Provide recommendations to the court that are in the best interest of the child and tribe.
• Expert testimony on cases 
• Monitoring of court case activity to ensure compliance with the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act and other state and tribal laws that provide protection for Indian children
• Education and guidance for attorneys, court appointed guardians, and families on the rights and responsibilities of the judicial system to ensure the protection of Cherokee children under federal and state law


This unit monitors and reserves the right to intervene in guardianship cases involving Cherokee children whom are registered members of the Cherokee Nation.  

Private Adoptions:

The unit works with private adoption agencies, attorneys and all other petitioners in an effort to assist them with compliance of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Cherokee Nation can provide home studies and profiles to agencies for birth parents that meet the federal placement preferences under the law. 

Birth Parents:

This unit provides a variety of services for birth parents who wishing to voluntarily place their child for adoption. The Cherokee Nation will provide the birth parents with a variety of home studies and profiles of potential adoptive families that are willing to comply with the birth parents desires in regard to an adoptive family.  This may include the amount of openness birth parents would prefer, the degree of Indian blood, the state in which the birth parents would like their child placed and so forth. The Cherokee Nation also provides birth parents with transportation to and from medical appointments, and assistance in setting up other services they may require. 

If you are a birth parent wishing to voluntarily place your child for adoption, you may confidentiality contact Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare by calling 918-458-6900 or emailing

Becoming a Placement Resource Home

Cherokee Nation welcomes a variety of Indian families from all over the United States who are willing to be a resource for our Cherokee children and other Indian children. Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare actively recruits families of ALL degrees of Indian blood from ALL federally recognized tribes. 

A family willing to open their home to Cherokee children in need of temporary or permanent care may apply to become a certified “Placement Resource Home” with Cherokee Nation. The following basic guidelines must be met to begin consideration:

•  At least one of the applicants must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe (or) be a relative of a child in the care of Cherokee Nation. 
•  Both applicants must be 21 years of age or older.

To become certified with Cherokee Nation, a home study must be completed. Cherokee Nation conducts home studies within a 4 hour driving distance from a Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare office which includes all of Oklahoma and select areas in Arkansas, Kansas, Texas and Missouri. If a family lives beyond this driving distance, the home study can be contracted out to a licensed social worker in the area in which the family resides. 

You CAN become an adoptive parent even if . . .
•  You live outside the State of Oklahoma 
•  You are a single adult 
•  You are divorced 
•  You do not own your own home 
•  You live with other family members 
•  You are a working mother 
•  You are over forty years of age 
•  You earn a modest income 
•  You have a disability 

Resource parents must be in good health, have a valid driver’s license, proof of auto insurance, be financially stable, submit to background investigation, provide references and have the child’s best interest and happiness at heart. Above all else, families must be able to provide a loving, stable, nurturing and safe environment for a child.

Children are the heart of Cherokee Nation and if you want to make a difference in the life of a child, please consider being a resource parent for our children. 

For more information or to make an application, please email or visit Homes for Cherokee Kids

To see updates on our program, “like” us on 

What services are provided to resource parents providing foster care? 

Resource parents providing foster care receive a monthly reimbursement for any child placed in their home. The reimbursement rate is based on the age of the child and may be increased if the child has special needs. The reimbursement is utilized to offset the cost of room and board, clothing and other incidentals. A voucher is provided for the child’s medical or dental care. If the resource parents are employed outside the home, day care may be provided for the child. Ongoing training is also available.

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Cherokee Nation Angel Tree

The Cherokee Nation Angel Tree was established to help provide Christmas gifts to low income Native American children, living within the Cherokee Nation’s boundaries. Applications are accepted each fall and angels are distributed to several trees located at Cherokee Nation offices.

Parents applying for Angel Tree assistance must provide:
•  Proof of income for all household members over the age of 18
•  If a parent(s) is unemployed, please provide two letters from non-relatives verifying unemployed status
•  A CDIB card for each child applying
•  Proof of residence within the 14 county jurisdictional boundary of the Cherokee Nation
•  Clothing sizes for each child
•  Two gift ideas for each child

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General Contact  918-453-5000 OR 800-256-0671 nationwide toll-free