Nenana Wellness Coalition


November 17, 2009

The Nenana Wellness Coalition is an alliance of representatives from various organizations, government agencies, community groups and individuals that meets weekly to discuss, evaluate, coordinate, consolidate, celebrate and help implement plans for improving the wellness and quality of life in Nenana Alaska.

There were nine participants today, including: Maryellen Robinson, Virginia Young, Nita Marks, Kat McElroy, Merrily Verhagen, Miles Martin, David Poppe, and Andrea & Walter Tommy. We had split pea with ham soup and corn bread for lunch.

WELCOME followed by the READING OF MISSION STATEMENT: By this week’s chairperson, Maryellen Robinson.

PRAYER: Was lead by Virginia Young, followed by the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIENCE.


APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Kat’s computer crashed. She has not been able to generate minutes for 11/03/09. Bonnie Reed did minutes for 11/10/09 which Tim Horn will forward to Kat to post.



Tribal Family Youth Services: Nita Marks opened her remarks by saying that she wears many hats at Nenana Native Council, including: Tribal Court Clerk, Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Worker, Adult Protective Services, as well as Tribal Family/Youth Services She also does enrollment for the tribe.

As a TFYS worker, she does child protection, as mandated by the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. She does welfare checks on any home she receives a report of concern on. If there is any question regarding immediate safety, she will get assistance from the troopers. In an emergency, if it is determined that the case is a child in need of aid, the tribe can take immediate physical and legal custody, placing the child into foster care. The parent(s) would then need to petition the tribal court to have custody restored. There has to be a court hearing within 30 days of the removal of the child. There are no lawyers involved although the parent(s) can bring in family or community members as support or witnesses. A case-plan would be created. It might mandate parenting classes, alcohol/drug assessment and/or treatment, domestic violence or alternatives to violence classes and/or mandatory UA’s.

The tribe follows state guidelines regarding custody. If the parent(s) fail(s) to follow through with the case-plan and a child is in foster care for longer than 12 months, the tribe will move to have parental rights terminated. Termination of parental rights would lead to adoption of the child. The tribe always attempts top place a child with relatives first; lacking that, they try to find another tribal member to adopt. There is a shortage of tribal foster and adoptive placement homes. Nita is always recruiting potential foster parents.

As court clerk, Nita makes sure that everyone involved in the case is informed of hearings. Notices are mailed out Certified. She makes home visits while children are in foster placement or if they need to be monitored in parental care. If a child falls under the ICWA determination, the state will ask the tribe if they want jurisdiction. If so, the tribe takes control of the case. If not, the tribe can still request to have interest and the right to intervene in the case and will be invited to hearings and case reviews and to have input into the case plan. If parents fight the case, a host of other people will become involved including lawyers, guardian ad litmus, CASA workers, OVCS case workers and the attorneys general.

OCS’s and the Tribe’s primary concern is always the welfare of the children involved. If there are multiple placements, with children being removed again and again, and shuttled back and forth between foster placements, there is a high risk of attachment disorders. Children fail to bond with their care-givers, which results in a host of lifelong difficulties for the children involved.

As a mandated reporter, Nita reports any allegations made to her to OCS. She does not investigate. She does not intervene in domestic violence situations without a trooper’s assistance. People often deny that there is anything amiss in the household. Children can be coached by the adults in a family to say nothing, or to deny abuse. Anchorage Police as well as Fairbanks police often do not recognize a tribal court order to do a welfare check although they will do so if the household is known to them to be problematic due to criminal activity. Sometimes TCC child protection staff will do a welfare check in the Fairbanks area. If there are allegations of sexual abuse, the child will be taken to Stevie’s Place in Fairbanks to be interviewed. In concern that a child’s statements might be shaped by the interview process, the child will be alone with the interviewer; parents and social workers are not allowed to be part of the interview. All interviews are video-taped. Miles asked about false allegations of abuse. Nita said that small children by and large are truthful; there have been cases of teenage children making false allegations to get themselves removed from a household. Merrily asked Nita if she worked closely with the schools. Nita said she tried to. All teachers are mandated reporters, as are health care providers. Any suspicion of neglect or abuse ought to be reported. Andrea asked if a person should make a report if a child seems fearful. Nita said yes; multiple reports of concern might trigger an OCS investigation. Andrea also asked about protection for disabled adults. Nita said yes, it is the same with elders or disabled people. If a care-provider is impaired or otherwise dangerous, it needs to be reported.

Nita provided these phone numbers:

Nita’s work number is 832-5461, ex 225. Her cell is 750-2178

Tanana Chief’s Conference Child Protection Services 1-800-478-6822

Office of Children’s Services/Fairbanks 1-800-353-2650

OCS outside of Fairbanks (Delta office handles Nenana cases) 1-877-987-6702 ex. 21

She also provided the number for the state troopers: 1-800-811-0911

Lastly, Susan Springs, Adult Protective Services 451-3187 and cell 322-3492

Nita said that currently the tribe has 19 children in tribal custody. She is also monitoring another 11 children in state custody. “We want parents to get their kids back,” she said. “We want clean and sober and safe homes.” She mentioned that currently regulations are being changed in regards to payment for foster care. People providing foster care to relative children will be eligible for ASAP benefits only, not the 700 to 900 dollars per month foster-care payments.

Virginia summed it up, “it isn’t about the perpetrators of abuse, it is about protecting the victims. Nita said she wishes that even when parents are broken up, they could still co-parent in the best interests of the children.

WELLNESS THOUGHT: It requires less character to discover the faults of others than to tolerate them. J. Petit Senn


Merrily notified us that she has just been informed that Geocities is defunct thus the Nenana Community Calendar is no longer available. They will try to get it back up on another venue soonest.

She also noted that there will be a community Thanksgiving dinner Friday, November 27th, at the tribal hall, from about 4-9 P.M.. She and Rebecca Troxel will be cooking turkey and ham. People are invited to contribute other dishes. There will be movies, games, and other entertainment. Food will be served from five ‘til about six-thirty for those wishing to skip the other activities.

Nita announced that tribal nominations open November 30th and tribal elections will be held Saturday, December 12th. December 7th there will be a tribal membership dinner and tribal meeting, at the tribal hall, six-ish.

Maryellen: Railbelt will be accepting nominations for Operation Hop Ho Ho until November 23rd. We need contact information to verify needs. Also, Monday, November 23rd, she has a luncheon at the Anderson city hall chambers.

Open floor for comments/questions/discussion:


Adjournment: 2 P.M