Tribal Program Serving Infants and Toddlers Regroups After Devastating Fire

 

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This is all that was left of the Lakota Tiwahe Center after the June 21, 2016 fire.                  Photo by Vi Waln.

By Vi Waln

ROSEBUD – Staff of the Lakota Tiwahe Center (LTC) are working hard to resume services after a fire completely destroyed the building which housed not only their program offices, but also contained the records of Sicangu children served by the program.

The LTC program staff are temporarily located in the basement of the Education Building, west of the RST Alcohol Program. Staff are now making home visits to parents in order to continue serving infants and toddlers. If you haven’t received a visit from your LTC Case Manager, please call 605-747-2833 to speak with an Early Intervention Specialist.

The Lakota Tiwahe Center is funded through an Infants and Toddlers grant from the US Department of Education. Services to local clients, aged birth through 5 years old, were first established in 1990 by the University of South Dakota, Center for Developmental Disabilities. In the early years of the program, screening was provided to infants and toddlers at the Rosebud Hospital.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Education Department eventually took over the administration of the Infants and Toddlers grant. The Lakota Tiwahe Center was created to provide early intervention assistance to infants and toddlers in need, in order for them to make the transition to school without any interruption of services. There are 6 staff members who serve the children of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. They include 4 Early Intervention Specialists, an Administrative Assistant and a Family Services Driver.

The main goal of the Lakota Tiwahe Center is to screen every newborn tribal infant at 1 month old. These screenings determine which infants are in need of early intervention services. A child can be screened at any age up to 5 years old. When the screening results indicate a need for services, program staff work to ensure the infant receives the appropriate assistance throughout their first 5 years of life. This is done to provide the child with a smooth transition of continued services upon entering Kindergarten.

“The Lakota Tiwahe Center provides early intervention services to assist infants and toddlers in order for them to have a smooth transition into the local school systems,” stated Cindy Young, Director of the RST Education Department. “We want children to begin school without any interruption of the services they are eligible to receive.”

In the late 1990’s, the program purchased a modular building from the Sicangu Wicoti Awayankapi in order to improve services provided to local children. The building was placed east of the Rosebud Hospital. Unfortunately, on the evening of June 21, 2016, the building went up in flames. Investigators have unofficially ruled the blaze as accidental.

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A crew from the Solid Waste Program of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe cleaned up the burn site after officials completed their investigation of the cause of the fire. Photo by Vi Waln.

The Education Department is already making plans to rebuild. A request by the program for a business site was recently approved by the Rosebud Community. The site is located near the intersection of BIA 1 and BIA 9 (Soldier Creek road).

Plans to relocate the Wakanyeja Tiokihe Oti (Lakota Immersion Project) from St. Francis to Rosebud was the initial reason for the site request. A new site was sought because the building in St. Francis isn’t a viable option for the project anymore. However, since the infants and toddler services were displaced by the fire, plans for the site could possibly be expanded to provide space for a new Lakota Tiwahe Center.

It is estimated that approximately 2600 children on the Rosebud Reservation have been screened since the inception of the program. Services are currently being provided to about 100 tribal infants and toddlers residing within the original boundaries of the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Clients in need of services are referred to the Todd County, Winner or White River pre-school programs. Transportation services to specialty clinics are provided by the LTC staff.

Program staff are determined to continue providing quality services to area infants and toddlers. The loss of the building was personal for the staff, as they have established relationships with many families in the area. Lakota Tiwahe Center employees include Bernice Whiting (Manager/Lead Early Intervention Specialist), Debb LeRoy (Administrative Assistant), Early Intervention Specialists Robin Clairmont, Stephanie Gunhammer and Jolene Arcoren. Deloris Kills In Water serves as the Family Services Driver.

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What used to be the site of the Lakota Tiwahe Center is now an empty lot. Photo by Vi Waln.

Local programs have generously donated office equipment to replace some of what was lost in the fire. The LTC staff sends their thanks to the RST WIC program, the Todd County and White River Pre-schools and the South Dakota Birth to Three Program. The Lakota Tiwahe Center and the Education Department appreciates your patience during this time of rebuilding.

Again, LTC program staff are now making home visits to families currently served by the program. If you haven’t received a visit from your Case Manager, please call 605-747-2833 and leave a message with the receptionist.

 

 

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