Cherokee child care workforce to receive 35% pay increase


Following recommendations of a special task force, the Cherokee Nation has taken steps to address needs for child care across its reservation in eastern Oklahoma. (Photo illustration by Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation has taken steps to address rising needs for child care across its reservation, including announcing a 35% pay increase for people who work in tribal child care programs.

Members of a Cherokee task force organized earlier this year to evaluate existing child care programs and needs issued a report recently with several recommendations. In addition to the pay increase for providers, they made several recommendations adopted by the tribe, including:

• Flexible spending accounts to help with child care expenses of Cherokee employees. The tribe has planned to offer FSAs and contribute $2,000 per child to be used for child care needs. Accounts will allow employees to save funds pre-tax, thereby reducing their overall child care costs.

• A partnership with Cherokee Nation Businesses to build a new child care facility on CNB’s Hard Rock property in Catoosa. The facility will help meet needs in Rogers County, where there are nearly 4,000 Cherokee children 12 and under. The task force found that for each child care slot in Rogers County there are three children.

• A tribal contribution of $5 million to Boys & Girls Clubs, which provide after-school programs for thousands of Cherokee children.

• Sign-on bonuses for people hired for early child care positions. The tribe also will provide increased educational opportunities for its early child care workforce through Cherokee Nation Career Services.

“Whether you need child care directly, someone in your family needs child care, someone in your community needs it, or maybe you will need child care at some point in the future, it’s an issue that impacts all of us,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a release. “We want to make sure these services are available directly through the Cherokee Nation with places like our Child Development Centers, or the private partners we work with in a variety of capacities.”

According to the release, the task force was created as part of the Verna D. Thompson Early Childhood Education Act adopted in 2021. Among other things, it called for investment of up to $40 million to replace or rehabilitate the tribe’s Head Start centers.

In fiscal year 2022, the Cherokee Nation provided more than $16 million in child care subsidies for its citizens, serving more than 1,800 families with more than 2,900 children. The tribe’s Cherokee Connections Program focuses on relative providers caring for children while parents work or attend school. Its child care parent services include child care referrals and a 20-week, in-home support program.

“Identifying communities that lack enough child care and then taking swift action shows what we can do when we listen and work together,” Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Keith Austin said. “A new child care center on our CNB corporate campus in Catoosa will serve the whole community and is just one of the many opportunities we have to increase child care services across the reservation.”

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