Each year, the United Church of Christ’s Charles Hall Youth Services (CHYS) serves approximately 60 North Dakota youth in crisis, of which about half are Native American from five tribal nations in the region. In recognition of the tribally-appropriate work done to help at-risk foster care youth, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation (MHA Nation) — located on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation — provided a $100,000 grant to Charles Hall in December 2017.
The grant, earmarked for underwriting direct-care staff salaries, was made after a series of meetings last fall between MHA Nation tribal leaders and Charles Hall Youth Services.
“We are so appreciative to receive this grant to strengthen our connection with the Three Affiliated Tribes of MHA Nation,” says Gayle Klopp, co-executive director of administration and operations at CHYS.
The gift has been a particular godsend, due to recent Medicaid and local United Way cuts. “Last year, Medicaid rates were cut by 40 percent — totaling approximately $160,000 for our agency. State foster care funding in 2017 was cut by $50,000 and local United Way funding was cut $18,000 for 2018,” says Gayla Sherman, CHYS’ co-executive director of programs and resource development. “Even with the generous gift from MHA Nation, our agency still has had to make budget cuts, including selected services which we now partner to provide with others in our local community.”
Charles Hall Youth Services was founded after the building of the Garrison Dam in the 1950s. “With the building of the dam project, Ft. Berthold Indian communities became displaced and families uprooted, causing continued trauma for the tribal nation,” explains Sherman.
Both Native and non-Native Congregational churches saw an immediate need to assist tribal families and the future of their children, as their way of life faced abrupt and major change. In 1965, Hall Home was established as the first of three group homes now a part of Charles Hall Youth Services. Hall Home was named after the Rev. Charles L. Hall, long-time Congregational missionary to Ft. Berthold. Originally CHYS served only MHA Nation youth.
“Gayla and I have worked hard to connect with members of the Three Affiliated Tribes for over a decade now, as we have felt a humble connection to our history, and to those who have gone before us in mission and relational work — especially with tribal youth,” says Klopp.
To that end, Klopp and Sherman hope the grant is the beginning of an even larger partnership to help the youth. MHA Nation is building a large facility in north Bismarck for addiction treatment and support for adult tribal members and their families. The facility is scheduled to open this summer.
“We are beginning talks to see if we can partner in selective ways with the new facility and programming to meet the needs of MHA Nation families,” Sherman says. “Specifically, we seek to partner, offering our expertise in children’s services, group and individual work with adolescents and teens, as well as our knowledge and practice in trauma-informed care.”
Other Inroads to Assist At-Risk Youth
Charles Hall Youth Services’ community-based programming is based on child-centered care, using ESSENTIAL©, a program designed specifically for Charles Hall Youth Services following a major grant from the Bush Foundation about 10 years ago. Working with the Kansas City-based Teel Institute, Charles Hall staff created curriculum and programming to teach adolescents and teenagers in residential foster care those behaviors and thinking skills that build and maintain self-respect, personal integrity, and character.
The research-based program teaches youth self-control, how to use mistakes as opportunities to learn, why responsibility is important, and how to respect one’s own rights and the rights of others. The end goal is to help youth begin to understand the principles necessary to develop authentic self-esteem and greater resiliency.
CHYS also uses the Circle of Courage®, a philosophy combining youth development research and Native tribal wisdom to outline the four essential elements every child needs to flourish and thrive: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. Also, the agency’s core programming employs 40 Developmental Assets®, created by the Search Institute following decades-long research about the internal and external assets children need to grow to become healthy and resilient adults. Sherman and Klopp are hopeful that they can bring ESSENTIAL© and other agency program curricula to tribal schools of regional Indian nations, including MHA Nation, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
In preliminary conversations with Principal Lisa Taken Alive and two school counselors at Standing Rock Middle School in Fort Yates, N.D., the school officials expressed that ESSENTIAL© “could be the missing program piece needed to make greater inroads with Native American adolescents and teachers in the school” Sherman says, explaining that Taken Alive commented on the strength of the program’s curriculum and its adaptability to the Dakota/Lakota cultures.
God’s Own Time
“God’s timing most often is not our own,” reflects Sherman, “and God’s timing was evident as doors began to open [last fall] and effective conversations led to action. We were outsiders approaching the leaders of a different nation — humbling is not a strong enough word to paint the picture. Yet, through it all, feelings of great passion and a uniting justice helped us stay the course.”
“Now, our work has just begun,” Klopp adds. “We pray for God’s guidance as we continue this trek to seek to do right by the children we have been called to serve.”
Charles Hall Youth Services is a CHHSM-member ministry headquartered in Bismarck, N.D. It is licensed as a Residential Child Care Facility (RCCF) and provides daily living care, case management, and therapeutic services to youth, ages 10-19, in three neighborhood-based group homes. Founded in 1965 as a mission of the United Church of Christ, Charles Hall Youth Services provides services for foster care youth needing to live in a safe, stable and nurturing environment.