TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, and members of the Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Task Force met recently to discuss a number of major early child care initiatives after the task force analyzed child care needs within the reservation. Among the initiatives are 35 percent pay increases for the tribe’s early child care workforce, and the creation of Flexible Spending Accounts to help with tribal employees’ child care expenses.
In March, Hoskin created the Early Childhood Task Force to identify areas of opportunity and areas of unmet needs regarding early child care within the Cherokee Nation Reservation. The task force was assembled as part of the Verna D. Thompson Early Childhood Education act created by Hoskin and Warner in 2021 and approved by the Council. It invests up to $40 million to replace or rehabilitate all of the tribe’s Head Start centers.
“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,” Hoskin said. “We want young Cherokees to have great opportunities in child care, which is an important part of their development. 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. We want the best for the Cherokee people, and child care is an area where we can make a positive impact.
“One critical component of the Verna D. Thompson Early Childhood Education Act included a comprehensive review of all early childhood educational services in the reservation for Cherokee citizens. The task force has met, they have thoroughly reviewed those services throughout the reservation, and we have a number of new initiatives that we believe are going to make generational impacts for our citizens and allow us to seize the opportunity to close any gaps that might exist while building on our successes.”
Hoskin and Warner said Cherokee Nation’s early child care workforce will receive a pay increase of 35 percent in response to the task force’s comprehensive review. Cherokee Nation has already surpassed the national salary average for childcare professionals.
The tribe also will provide sign-on bonuses when hiring for early child care positions, and provide increased educational opportunities for the early child care workforce through Cherokee Nation Career Services.
The Cherokee Nation will also make additional investments into the lives of its tribal government workforce by offering a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and contributing $2,000 per child toward the FSA to be used for childcare needs. This would allow employees to save funds pre-tax, reducing overall child care costs.
The tribe will also partner with Cherokee Nation Businesses to build a new child care facility on CNB’s Hard Rock property in Catoosa to bring reliable, affordable childcare to thousands of employees in the area. The facility will help fill a gap in the childcare needs of Rogers County, where there are nearly 4,000 Cherokee children ages 12 and under, second only to Cherokee County within the Cherokee Nation Reservation. For each available child care slot in Rogers County, there are three children.
The tribe also will contribute an additional $5 million to the important work of local Boys & Girls Clubs, which provide after-school programs for thousands of Cherokee children in the reservation.
The complete Early Childhood Task Force report can be found online at this link: https://cherokee.org/media/dmbjief1/early-childhood-education-report.pdf
More information on the tribe’s existing child care programs can be found by emailing the Cherokee Nation Human Services department at [email protected] or calling (918) 453-5422.