Port Gamble Bay, ancestral home of the Port Gambal S'klallams as the early morning dawns

First Native American tribe approved to operate guardianship, foster care and adoption program

  For the first time in U.S. child welfare history, a tribe will have control over the process for evaluating child abuse and neglect allegations, determining whether children need to be placed in foster care, and finding permanent homes for children – safely back with their parents, in the homes of caring relatives, or with adoptive families. Thanks to new federal rules, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe (PGST) becomes the first Native American community permitted to operate its own guardianship assistance, foster care and adoption assistance program.

“The approval of this program marks an important milestone in furthering relationships between the federal government and Indian tribes in the operation of child welfare programs,” said George Sheldon, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families. “I congratulate the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe on its achievement and I look forward to seeing additional Tribes operate their own welfare programs in the future.”


The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-351) allows tribes to receive direct funding from the federal government under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act. Prior to this law, states, not tribes, made decisions regarding foster care and permanent families for all Native American children.

The Title IV-E foster care program helps states and tribes provide:

• Safe and stable out-of-home care for children until they can be returned home safely or until they are placed permanently with relatives or adoptive families.

• Services for children and families to address the underlying causes and consequences of abuse and neglect.

• Support for children who are placed with relatives who become guardians or adoptive families.

Effective April 1, PGST will oversee a broad array of services and supports funded by HHS and typically run by states, including:

• Child Welfare

• Child Support

• Child Care

• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

PGST will also run a pilot program with the state of Washington to determine eligibility for Medicaid and basic food benefits for tribal members in Kitsap County.

To mark this historic occasion, Acting Assistant Secretary George Sheldon and HHS officials will attend the tribe’s signing ceremony and celebration on March 29 in Port Gamble.

Originally known as the Nux Sklai Yem or Strong People, PGST are descendants of the Salish people. The Salish people are well established in the Puget Sound basin and surrounding areas. In the late 1930’s, the PGST reservation was created on the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington state. Nearly 1,000 tribe members live there today.

For more information on the program, visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/ebrochure2011/ACYF_CBPage4.htm.

To find out more about the tribe, visit http://www.pgst.nsn.us/.