BY MICHELLE SIMON
The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Tribal Child Support Services program supports Native American children and their families by assisting tribal members with establishing and administering financial child support payments. The program is under the umbrella of services provided by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Social Services Department.
The program itself was established in 2012 and is primarily funded through a non-competitive grant administered at the federal level by the Office of Child Support Enforcement, along with a 20% tribal match. Prior to the program, child support payments were handled by the PBPN Tribal Court staff. Today, the program consists of Program Manager Kelly Hopkins, Child Support Specialists Kelly Lewis and Season Dominguez, along with Specialist/Investigator Shelley Cadue and Financial Specialist Jennifer Steelman. The program manages over 200 cases.
Parents, grandparents or other guardians seeking services through this outlet must complete an intake application. After the application is received, the staff can assist clients in five main service areas including establishing paternity, establishing and enforcing support orders, modifying child support orders, locating the non-custodial parent, and the collection and disbursement of child support payments.
Regarding establishing paternity, the program can provide DNA testing free of cost provided that the father is not listed on the birth certificate, or an amended birth certificate or already established via a court order. Otherwise, the cost of DNA testing falls on the parent.
Child Support Services works with the PBPN Tribal Court to establish support orders with income withholding as the most efficient means of garnering support. The program also has the authority to issue bench warrants if an individual does not show up to court.
Within the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation per capita distributions are subject to garnishment to fulfill past child support owed to the custodial parent or the Nation, however, this is not the case with all tribes that distribute per capita payments to their respective members. The PBP Nation also has a Memorandum of Understanding with the state of Kansas which allows the program to garnish state taxes to fulfill the payee’s obligation. And unlike the Kansas Payment Center which processes child support for the state of Kansas, the Nation does not charge interest or take a portion of the child support payment.
The program is also able to assist in the modification of orders. Throughout the course of time, an individual’s circumstances may change, and the office can review the case for possible modification.
One of the more difficult elements in the child support process is locating the non-custodial parent, especially if that individual is not a member of the PBP Nation. The program does work with states and other tribes but is then at the discretion of the protocols within each jurisdiction.
The Child Support program seeks to support both the custodial and non-custodial parents of the children they serve by referring them to other services under the PBPN Social Services umbrella such as the Vocational Rehabilitation program which can assist in the employment process or other outside agencies that can provide aid. The program has also instituted a Fatherhood/Motherhood is Sacred 12-week curriculum for fathers, mothers, and caretakers to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of engaged parenting practices underscored by Native American values and beliefs.
For anyone seeking services or for questions, contact 785-966-8329 or visit www.pbpindiantribe.com/social-services/child-support-services/.