Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

ICW Provides Support to Families

Nick Van Zile, ICW (Indian Child Welfare) Director, and Mandi Eernisse, Case Worker, have been hard at work providing support services to the families that need them.

ICW is one of many programs that recently moved to the Family Resource Center on 10808 Sokaogon Drive. ICW moved on September 18th and 19th from the Administration Building, and though they are still decorating the family visitation room, they are already seeing benefits of moving.

“We do typically want to have visits in the home, but when that’s not a possibility it’s nice to have a secondary location where we can fall back to,” Nick said.

Before moving to their current location, there was no family visitation room, requiring the staff to utilize a conference room or a public place in the community, such as a restaurant.

“Families can know that there’s not just going to be a random person walking through. With this location, it is more private, and we’re able to have everything in one spot. We also have secure access and a monitored doorway for families to have a bit more privacy,” Nick continued.

ICW works both on and off-reservation, providing a variety of services. On reservation, they focus on child protection, ongoing case management and aiding families, particularly those experiencing issues regarding children’s safety, child abuse and neglect.

Off reservation, they work with families who are involved in state child protection court. They represent the Tribe and ensure that the child can maintain a connection to the community and their heritage. They also help children become enrolled Tribal Members and provide resources to help families connect with the Tribal community.

The ICW works with both the Tribal court and the state court, but does not deal with family courts handling custody and divorce.

“There’s a difference between child abuse and neglect, that’s what we do, and child custody and child support. Those are family court, and then there’s child protection court. We deal with child protection court,” Nick explained.

Other circumstances that ICW assists with are adoption, finding children’s relatives and appropriate placements. They also provide individual Positive Indian Parenting curriculum to families.

Though most of the ICW’s cases take place in Wisconsin, Nick noted that not all of them are in state. “I would say about 25% of our cases are on-reservation, another 50% to 60% would be off-reservation in the state of Wisconsin, and then the remaining 15% to 25% would be off-reservation in other states.”

The ICW are also active participants in the Mole Lake Coalition, the Community Coalition for Forest County, and the Drug Endangered Children (DEC) team for Forest County. These initiatives help improve the community, addressing issues including public and mental health, education and substance abuse.

Nick and Mandi regularly participate in community events. Recently, staff helped with the Binaakwe Falling Leaves Cultural Fall Camp, acting as a chaperone, and they plan to help at future community events.