NCO meeting discusses adoption opportunities for Osages and culture workshops

PETALUMA, Calif. – Osage Nation Social Services officials are reaching out to constituents seeking more foster and adoption families for Osage children.

At the Sept. 26 Northern California Osage fall gathering, social service workers visited with West Coast Osage constituents and discussed their department’s services available, especially for those interested in being foster or adoptive parents.

Leah Bighorse, an ONSS supervisor, said the Nation has licensed homes available throughout the U.S. and said interested households must go through a licensing process that takes 90-120 days. She also said those households who live out-of-state are required to obtain a home study completed by a local licensed social worker and to provide fingerprint test results to ONSS.

Bighorse also said the ONSS is able to assist households with costs of a home study if needed and mandatory foster parent training is required.

ON Social Service workers are visiting out-of-area locations where larger number of Osages live to educate the Osage public of its services and provide further consultation with those wishing to know more about opening their homes to an Osage child or children needing a family.

Rebecca Fish, ON adoptions social worker, said there are about 12 Osage children in need of a home during the NCO meeting.

Bighorse acknowledged that being an adoptive/ foster parent can be difficult, but used the presentation to discuss myths and facts of being an adoptive/ foster parent. For example, Bighorse said any Osage person who is physically and mentally able to care for children will be considered for licensure. She also added ONSS will assist interested people with essential furniture (i.e. a baby crib) and home safety items to help the person receive approval as a foster/ adoptive household.

The ONSS follows other ON departments who sent employees in recent years to the regional California Osage meetings to promote their services or to interact with the constituents.

Nanette Kelley, a steering committee member for the NCO, said she is “pleased ONSS was able to start signing up prospective homes for foster Osage children in (California). (ONSS director) Lee Collins and I have been planning to highlight a social services visit like this for the past two years.”

Also attending the meeting was Renee Harris, a Wah-Zha-Zhi Cultural Center worker, who offered cooking and sewing instructions to those attendees interested in learning craft and culinary basics. Harris, a former Grayhorse District head cook, instructed attendees on cooking corn soup, frybread and Osage peaches for the event lunch.

Harris also coached the attendees on fringing a shawl with materials she brought from Oklahoma. The exercises mirror those cooking and sewing activities Harris taught during a summer culture program targeting Osage girls.

Osage author and Washington state resident Ruby Murray attended the meeting and offered a creative writing workshop to some of the attendees.

“It’s 1,958 miles from my house to Pawhuska and only 703 to Petaluma,” Murray said. “If I can get an Osage fix in between trips home, I’m happy. Going to the NCO meetings doesn’t substitute for going home in June or other times, but when you live away there’s a lot of pressure on the time that you do spend at home. It’s good to talk with other Osages and Osage tribal leaders face to face in a relaxed setting. I appreciate all that goes into the meetings, the financial support, the organization, the travel time. Giving writing workshops to tribal members has been a way for me to hear the poignancy that people feel about being far from home and what they value.”

Kelley said the spring 2016 NCO meeting is scheduled for May 14, but the venue was not set yet. She said at this time, there will be a cultural presentation planned on Osage wedding coats by Dr. Daniel Swan, University of Oklahoma professor and curator of ethnology at the OU Sam Noble Museum of Natural History. And the spring NCO meeting is also an opportunity for 2016 ON election candidates to attend and speak to the attendees and prospective voters.