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Osage Nation To Enforce Child Support Laws

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PAWHUSKA, Okla. (AP) -- The Osage Nation is creating a child support enforcement division with the help of federal funding. The Pawhuska-based tribe says the division will help end jurisdictional conflicts with the state that are caused when a tribal member living on Indian land fails to pay child support.

The program will be funded with 90% federal money for the first three years, then with 80% federal money thereafter.

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News release from Osage Nation:

The Osage Nation Congress, in their Hun-Kah session passed a significant piece of legislation today when the Osage Nation Child Support Enforcement Act was approved by a unanimous vote.

The Osage Nation Child Support Enforcement Act will create a division within the Osage Nation for the collection and enforcement of Child Support. As the bill stands, the Osage Nation will be one of the first Tribes in the country to take over these actions for their members, and will be able to better serve their people through the action. The sponsor of the bill, Congresswoman Debra Littleton stated that this is a building block for the Nation, and a step forward in building the Nation’s infrastructure to take care of the Osage people, and assert tribal sovereignty. “By creating this department, the child support services staff will be able to better serve our Osage children. They will be able to distribute child support in a more efficient and timely manner. This will be accomplished by increasing client service with a much lower case load per case worker than the state’s system. In comparison with the State, our case load will be about 250 to 500 cases per case worker. The state’s case load is 1,000 to 1,500 cases per case worker, which leads to some children slipping through the cracks in the system.”

In many cases under the State’s system, Indian cases can become unattended due to the sovereign status of federally recognized Indian Tribes, and potential conflicts over jurisdiction. This problem led to the initiative on welfare reform under the Clinton administration, and the creation of direct federal funding to tribes for Tribal Child Support enforcement. The Osage Nation was the first tribe in the country to apply for funding under the new federal regulations to establish their own child support services department. The net result of this is that Tribes such as the Osage can now do what the state won’t do, and many times can’t do.

Littleton said the first three years of the program will be 90% federally funded and the Osage Nation’s match will be 10%. Then the department will be 80% funded by the federal government and 20% by the Osage Nation. “This is a small price to pay for a child-centered program that provides a clear message to absent parents- that they are accountable and responsible for their own children.”

Rusty Brown, the Director of Osage Child Support Services echoed that sentiment, “The Osage people can now seek aid in matters of child support enforcement from their own government instead of relying on the state system, which is often terribly overburdened and in many instances may not have the jurisdictional authority to act or enforce a child support order. This legislation strengthens the Osage Nation by taking an active role in ensuring the needs of the Osage children are met and that each parent is responsible for their children.”

Congressperson Littleton stated the end result of this process for the Congress just prior to the vote, “Let’s accept responsibility to take care of our Osage children because nobody will take care of them better than our Osage people.”
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