Lee Collins receives Richard Poweshiek Award for years of service in social work

Photo caption: Lee Collins was honored by the Osage Nation Congress on Sept. 13 for her years of service to the Osage Nation as director of the Social Services department. ON Communications/Cody Hammer

Lee Collins, longtime director of the Osage Nation’s Social Services department, received the Richard Poweshiek Award for her dedication and commitment to Native children at the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Association’s annual conference, held Nov. 7-9 at the Indigo Casino Hotel & Resort in Wyandotte.  

Collins retired from the Social Services department in October after 14 years as director.

“I have worked with Lee at the Osage Nation Social Services since December 2010. I’ve been in the Child Welfare field since 1997,” said Jenny Buffalohead, Foster Care Specialist for the ON Social Services department. “I have worked for some very outstanding staff in the Child Welfare field throughout my years in Oklahoma and California and Lee is one of the best directors I have worked for. She represented the Osage Nation very compassionately, professionally and was very dedicated in all aspects of her work.”  

Receiving the Richard Poweshiek Award recognizes that Collins has demonstrated an outstanding commitment and dedication to the tenets of the Indian Child Welfare Act, according to the OICWA website. Criteria to be considered include: distinction in the field of Indian child welfare, advocacy toward Indian children and their families, knowledge and proficiency of ICWA in its application in state courts, demonstrated leadership in promoting communication between state, private, community, and tribal agencies, and forming successful working relationships within the communities they serve.

Collins began her child welfare career with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in 1995. She was a Child Welfare Specialist from 1995-1998, at which time she became a Child Welfare Supervisor for OKDHS and continued in that capacity until 2002. From 2002-2004, Collins conducted home studies in Osage County. In 2004, she became the director of Osage Nation Social Services.

According to a news release, Collins helped the Nation’s Social Services office achieve many accomplishments over the years:

  • Participated in the Tribal-State Workgroup since 2004, where she advocated for ICWA training for OKDHS social workers; child welfare training for tribal social workers; acceptance of tribal foster care training for OKDHS foster and adoptive family resources; improved working relationships between tribes and OKDHS; improved Tribal-State Foster Care Agreements and enforcement.
  • Worked collaboratively with tribes from another state through The Mountains and Plains Child Welfare Implementation Center to develop a Formal Practice Model and ultimately an Automated Child Welfare Data System. These accomplishments are best explained by Mary Iannone in the Children’s Bureau Express article in August 2012: “It’s never been done in Indian country before. I don’t know if it’s been done across counties before.  It’s certainly never been done across states. It was groundbreaking.”
  • Member of Oklahoma Children’s Court Improvement Program for many years where she was most recently an integral part of the development of the Oklahoma Bench Guide to Indian Child Welfare 2018.
  • Developed, with the assistance of the University of Texas Arlington, a Foster Care Recruitment Video in which Osage elders, adoptive parents, foster parents and Osage Nation Social Services staff were interviewed and utilized in the recruitment process.
  • Developed a Collaboration Group with OKDHS offices for which she was sought after to present at the National Indian Child Welfare conference.
  • Long-time member, advocate, supporter and presenter of the National Indian Child Welfare Association.
  • Member, supporter, presenter, and conference planner for numerous Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Annual Conferences.
  • Organizer of numerous Trainings and Fairs to support and advocate for children and families.

Collins was honored by the Osage Nation Congress on Sept. 13 for her years of service to the Osage Nation.