Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Family Services Awarded VOCA Grant

The Family Services Department recently learned they have been awarded their first Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant. The grant begins October 1st, and the department will receive $230,000 each year for five years.

“We’ve never had this grant before. It was a competitive process, and we’re excited to bring these services to the community,” said Carla Ruuskanen, Director of Economic Support and Family Services.

The VOCA grant is through the Department of Justice, and has stringent guidelines that Family Services must follow.

“The grant is to provide services for victims of crime, which may include, but will not be limited to, sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking and Elder abuse. These are crimes that left the victim not whole and traumatized. We’ll ask the victims “what do you need”. Services will be provided to clients based on need, and case management will be provided to all who qualify for the funding.,” Carla continued.

The grant will also assist with legal fees, assistance in navigating the judicial system, and assist with housing victims who need to leave their current living situation.

“We are working to setup housing units for victims of crime. We’re working with Joe Kane at the Housing Department to rehab the building across from the Economic Support and Family Services offices, and create 10 housing units over the five year grant period. The building needs a lot of work,” Carla said.

“Year one of the grant will include intensive staff training so that we are ready to respond to the emotional, psychological or physical needs of crime victims. By year two, we will be up and running, and by year five, we’ll have a fully functional building.”

“The Department of Justice reached out to us because they noticed many of the Native American Tribes in Wisconsin did not apply for the grant. Once I received notice the grant was available, I started going to VOCA meetings in Wausau and Madison, and with Council approval, began writing the grant. The whole process took around a year,” she explained.

The five-year grant has a competitive re-application process, and Carla anticipates Economic Support and Family Services department will be reapplying.

As part of the changes that the VOCA grant will bring to the program, Carla will be moving to part time and Terica McConnel will become the new Family Services Director.

Carla shared an important fact: Native American women are highly sought after for human trafficking. The triangle of drug and human trafficking extends from Milwaukee to Green Bay, and west to Eau Claire. There are several Native communities within the triangle, and this high-risk area poses many threats.

“I’ve heard stories of women shopping at Fox Valley Mall in Appleton who had incidents and stories of near abductions. Domestic violence is another issue that needs to be addressed as the community is very quiet about incidents. We need some of kind of healing. And this needs to be discussed with the community in a culturally appropriate away. We need to hear from the community what is needed,” Carla said.

The grant will facilitate trainings, informational meetings, the purchase a new vehicle, and, “Open the doors of other possibilities for grants that we wouldn’t have been able to get before,” Carla explained.

Economic Support & Family Services are now sharing their building with Indian Child Welfare (ICW), who relocated to the building earlier this week. The Tribal Court will also be moving to the building soon.

Congratulations Carla and all of the staff at Economic Support & Family Services on this new grant! Chi Miigwech for your hard work!