FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

would be easy to dismiss Shelaya’s parents because of their ongoing struggles, but the PGST ICW philosophy is that every parent’s strengths should be considered over their problems. The strength in Shelaya’s case is the close relationship with her mother. ICW did everything in its power to ensure that connection endured while protecting Shelaya’s health and well-being. Scheduled visits occurred on the Tribal campus and while Shelaya would have preferred these visits to have happened more privately, away from caseworkers, they allowed the family to remain connected, even when living together wasn’t possible. After graduating high school, Shelaya began working and found a place of her own where she found “peace and quiet, the ability to make (my) own rules, and something to call (my) own.” Shelaya continues to work hard to build a stable life for herself and her family. She, her partner, and their children have a home, and she’s coming up on the fifth anniversary in her current job. She plans to begin college in the near future. Listening and Learning Shelaya’s story is reflective of her hard work as well as the success of PGST’s ICW system. It also serves as a lesson in how the program can always improve. While Shelaya’s story ended in a child growing up and thriving to become a capable, bright young woman, she has been open with her experiences, both good and bad. PGST’s Child Welfare department welcomes these stories from current and former foster children and families. Many of their suggestions have led to significant changes in the program, including implementing regular outings with caseworkers and youth. Whether they’re visiting the zoo, shopping for clothes, or going to dinner or a show in neighboring Seattle, this time together allows staff and the kids in their care to talk, bond, and form a relationship built on trust. In S’Klallam culture, Elders play a significant role and are revered for their wisdom and life experience. Children & Family Services

has taken this to heart in the building of all its programs. In 2021, the Port Gamble S’Klallams lost one of its most beloved Elders, Rose Purser, who most people throughout the community knew as “Grandma Rose.” Andrea Smith, a former Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribal Attorney who helped draft some of the code that guides ICW’s work, worked alongside Grandma Rose in adjacent offices. Andrea credits Grandma Rose for influencing her work in a variety of ways. “Grandma Rose was there when I started at the Tribe, and she and I left working in the same building at roughly the same time. I feel like I grew as an attorney with Grandma as a mentor,” said Andrea. “She was the associate judge at the Tribal Court for a long time and kept what was probably countless generations of court staff, attorneys, and other workers true to the culture and traditions of the Tribe.” This connection between Elders and staff extends far beyond the professional. The S’Klallam tradition of holding Elders in high esteem reverberates throughout the community, even to staff members who are not Port Gamble S’Klallam members. Andrea remembers: “In the mornings, I would watch for her car to pull into her parking spot so I could make sure I was there to open the door or get her something if she needed it, like running to the kitchen to bring her hot water for coffee. And I wasn’t the only one in the building to do that; others would check in on her throughout the time she was in the office to talk or bring her coffee or lunch. It’s what you do for an Elder.” It was apparent to everyone that Grandma Rose loved her Tribe, family, and community. She used these connections to help influence policy while maintaining her objectivity. “She was honest about the issues in her family, up to the extent it was hers to share,” said Smith. “She was forthright about things she wished could be done differently or how they had been handled differently before. And she took her time, thoughtfully, to figure out

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