Press Release

Release Date: May 14, 2024
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

May is nationally recognized as Foster Care Awareness Month, and the Chickasaw Nation is calling attention to the need for additional foster care providers.

Joni Wellington, director of Chickasaw Nation Family Preservation, says the supply of available foster homes does not meet the demand for children needing them.   

“We are always needing more homes,” Wellington said. “Right now, all of our homes are full, and we could double those.”

The Chickasaw Nation Foster Care Program, provided by Chickasaw Nation Family Preservation Services, was developed to provide temporary or permanent care for First American children placed into tribal or state custody.

The program seeks applicants who meet the tribe’s certification requirements to provide First American children with safe, nurturing and culturally appropriate homes. Prospective foster home applicants must be at least 21 years of age, undergo a background check, be a member of a federally recognized tribe, live in Oklahoma, and be able to financially support themselves and provide a safe, stable, loving and nurturing environment for the child.

According to the National Indian Child Welfare Association (, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in 1978 in response to a high number of First American children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies. The original act was designed to keep First American children with First American families. It was later challenged and, in June 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.

“Most of our foster parents are First American, but we can open a non-First American home if it is a relative/kinship home,” Wellington said. “Many are Chickasaws, some are from other tribes.”

Wellington said there are currently 38 available homes willing to accept children from the Chickasaw Nation’s foster care program, 16 of which are considered “traditional” homes. She said traditional homes are available to take placement of any child who needs foster care services. 

“The other 22 homes we currently have are considered kinship/relative homes,” she said. “Those are homes that have typically opened for a particular child, or a sibling set because they are a blood relative or have an existing relationship with the child before the child comes into custody.”

She said such homes often belong to a relative, teacher, coach or family friend who has a previous relationship with the child.

Recruitment efforts geared toward securing new foster parents take many forms, including distributing brochures at tribal public events, and visiting schools and medical clinics.

“We distribute brochures anywhere there might be prospective foster families,” Wellington said.

“In March, we sent out recruitment postcards to all Chickasaw homes in Oklahoma asking for contact information for anyone who was interested.” Wellington said four applications resulted from the effort.

“We’re really excited about that,” she said. “We would love to have 60 homes so that we can place children in safe, loving homes that are a good fit for each child’s needs.

“You have to celebrate those little things, and we do have success stories about families who go through recovery, do well, are reunified with their children and thrive. Even if you can’t reach the parents, you can reach the children and, as they get older, they will break that cycle.”

Those interested in becoming a foster care provider with the Chickasaw Nation, contact Chickasaw Nation Foster Care Services at (580) 310-7900 or visit