Lifting a Burden

Support from ANJC helps tribal workers tackle heavy caseload

ANJC offers training and support to Tribal Indian Child Welfare Act caseworkers as part of its efforts to help fulfill the promise of ICWA to keep Alaska Native children safe and connected to our Alaska Native cultures.

Lately, Gertrude Peter and Andrew Steven have seen an uptick in Child in Need of Aid (CINA) cases. Between the two of them, Gertrude and Andrew regularly handled roughly 70 to 80 CINA cases this fall; their calendars can often be booked with back-to-back hearings. And, until recently, they were on their own.

“It can become hectic at times, but with the Alaska Native Justice Center’s (ANJC) help, we can do it,” said Gertrude, who serves as the director of Orutsararmiut Native Council Social Services.

The council started working with ANJC’s Tribal Justice Support team in 2019. ANJC partners with Alaska Tribes to support tribal sovereignty and justice. The organization also represents and advises Alaska Tribes in State CINA cases where the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) applies.

While Orutsararmiut Native Council mainly serves Bethel, Gertrude and Andrew (an ICWA advocate) also work with cases in Anchorage, Palmer, Fairbanks, and other locations. It’s a heavy workload for two people. Having ANJC’s support allows the Bethel team to focus on local cases, while ANJC helps with cases in the further flung settings.

This September, Gertrude Peter and Andrew Steven attended the first-ever Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Workers Conference presented by ANJC–an opportunity for Tribal caseworkers to enhance their knowledge of and response to allegations of child abuse and neglect.

This fall, ANJC and the Orutsararmiut ICWA caseworkers partnered to find a family placement for some children whose father had died, and whose mother was struggling with addiction.

“We had an emergency Team Decision Making meeting, and we were quick to get the paperwork together and to ANJC,” Gertrude described. “ANJC worked fast to find out when the court hearings would be, who the judge would be, so we could get up to speed. Working with ANJC just made everything flow together more easily.”

Together, ANJC, Gertrude, and Andrew are working to place the children with their grandmother and uncle.

Every two weeks, Gertrude and Andrew meet with ANJC staff to share updates on active cases. In addition to regular meetings, Andy and Gertrude have attended trainings and the recent Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Workers Conference.

“I was so happy about ANJC serving Orutsararmiut because motions can take so much time—gathering information, reviewing petitions. It’s really time-consuming,” Gertrude described. “I was relieved that ANJC could cover cases in the Valley, Anchorage, and the Kenai area. It let us focus on the cases from here in Bethel. It’s like a burden was lifted.”

You can learn more about ANJC’s tribal ICWA representation services and support for Tribes online. To connect with our Tribal Justice Support team, email

Scroll to Top