Vt. DCF creates new position to help Abenaki children

Published: Nov. 13, 2022 at 9:17 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A new position with the Vermont Department for Children and Families is aimed at building better relationships with Vermont’s Abenaki tribes.

The role is called the Indian Child Welfare Act Coordinator. The title refers to the federal law that aims to keep Native American children under the care of relatives or tribe members whenever possible.

Because Abenaki tribes are recognized by the state but not by the federal government, that federal law doesn’t apply to them.

When a child could have tribal affiliation or heritage, the coordinator will be responsible for verifying that information with the relevant tribes before the child is placed in another home.

The first person to ever hold the position met with the Vermont Council of Native American Affairs on Wednesday to discuss the ways the organizations can work together.

“This could be a game-changer. There’s no question. The ramifications for children are enormous. If kids can stay in their respective community... that’s so important.” said Jeff Benay, the director of Indian education for Franklin County public schools.

“It’s very exciting and I know it’s going to be very rewarding as well. I’m very much looking forward to helping Vermont’s children,” said Marshall Rich, the ICWA coordinator for DCF.

The Department for Children and Families hopes the coordinator will aid in collaboration and keep open communication between the state and the Vermont tribes.

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Building better relationships with Vermont’s Abenaki tribes