May is Foster Care Awareness Month, an opportunity to thank all Cherokee foster parents for the selfless time and love they give for our Cherokee children. Wado for stepping up to care for our precious children while we work to reunify their families and bring healing.

In normal times, foster parenting requires extraordinary patience and caring. It takes an extra measure of both during our struggle with COVID-19. Children in foster care must deal with the compounded stress of their family situation and the global pandemic crisis.

Cherokee Nation First Lady January Hoskin and I believe that we all share in the responsibility of bringing up Cherokee children. We are both staunch advocates of Indian Child Welfare, and we have advocated for Cherokee youth and the preservation of the Indian Child Welfare Act on all levels. Together, we will always prioritize finding quality Cherokee foster homes for the hundreds of children in need.

The First Lady has spoken at numerous events on the importance of keeping Native children close in their tribal communities. I am proud of the work she has done throughout Oklahoma and across the country. And we are not alone. The Cherokee Nation has many dedicated volunteers, staff and partner organizations who work every day to protect children in our communities.

I want foster families to know that you are part of a mighty tribe, and the First Lady and I are always here for you if you need support or just a voice of encouragement.

Take heart because you, our Cherokee foster families, are truly making a difference during a difficult time. Along with managing difficult feelings and navigating disrupted routines, we know you have experienced joyous moments too. Those experiences reinforce why you started this journey. Creating those unforgettable memories of warmth and love for children is part of our core values as Cherokees.

At the foundation of Cherokee communities is the wisdom that we belong to one another. At the center of that belonging is our families, our primary source of love, identity, self-esteem and support.

Unfortunately, our birth families cannot always fulfill that role. That is when we call on the tireless and passionate work of foster families to make sure children feel safe, nurtured and connected to their tribe and tribal family.

I cannot think of a better way to display Cherokee values than by being a foster parent. Children are our connection to our Creator and our continued existence as a tribe. When future generations look back on this global crisis, they will be in awe of how foster parents stepped up to answer the call for care and keep our tribe intact.

If you are a Cherokee Nation citizen or a citizen of another federally recognized tribe who has the resources to temporarily share your home and provide love and stability to a child, we urge you to consider becoming a foster parent. Now more than ever, children need your help. You can make a huge difference in the life of a child and our entire nation.

To learn more about becoming a placement resource home for a Cherokee child or sibling group, please visit www.Cherokeekids.org or call 918-458-6900.

Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation.