Cherokee Connections is a program of the Cherokee Nation Child Care and Development Department, Child Care Resource Center. It focuses services on relatives who are caring for children while the parents work or go to school. Cherokee Connections strives to improve the quality of child care for children who are cared for in relatives’ homes, through a variety of learning opportunities for the relative caregivers and the children in their care. Program components include a year long home visiting program, quarterly meetings of caregivers who are interested in learning more about providing care for children, with staff traveling to sites throughout the service area and set up learning activities for the providers and children to share together.
Working together (ga-du-gi) to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for children that promotes Cherokee language and culture.
Cherokee Connections has three main components:
: Available to relative (license exempt) child care providers in the 14-county service area who are registered and contract with our Cherokee Nation Child Care Licensing Program. Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Educators make monthly visits to the homes of providers who are caring for their grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews or siblings. This program serves all children in the home through 12 years of age. Using the Parents as Caregivers Curriculum, “Supporting Care Providers through Personal Visits,” educators work with providers to encourage the school readiness skills that begin in infancy through six years. Each visit lasts approximately one hour. Providers choose 12 topics of interest, one for each month. The educator takes materials and information about the topic to the home, along with learning activities, toys, music, and children’s books that correspond with the topic for that month. The next month the educator exchanges those activities and brings a new topic and themed activities to correspond to the next topic.
Language Incentive Program:
Incentives—Participants in the home visiting program may earn financial incentives. The program has four areas to earn incentives:
1. Improving health and safety
Points may be earned for completing activities in each area, a total of $400 available to the provider for completing various activities related to the focus areas.
2. Providing school readiness skills
3. Strengthening Cherokee Connections (including language & culture)
4. Completion of 25 hours of training
Material Check Out—After completing the 12 month home visiting program providers can continue in the program by coming to a designated site and picking up activities to be used in their homes with the children. A variety of kits and materials may be checked out including learning activities, books and toys. Activities may be kept for one month and returned to the lending library.
Mentors—Graduates of the home visiting program may assist in mentoring new caregivers at Network Meetings.
Without a major focus on the Cherokee language, in two generations the language will be lost. Language speakers, who are caring for children in their homes, have an ability to help the Cherokee language continue. Cherokee speakers who want to work with the children in their care to teach them the Cherokee language.
Additional resources to Family Friend and Neighbor Care