Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s FireLodge Children & Family Services welcomed DeAnna Voeks as its new foster care and adoption specialist in June 2022. She knew from her first day that working for the Tribe and FireLodge would be different than any of her previous jobs — in a good way.
“The overall communication between the people that work here. The overall goal of making the community better. I see that in full force here. How can you not?” she said.
“I smile a lot. I make an impact here that I can see with my own eyes. I don’t have to wonder about it.”
Voeks covered her office in llamas, not just for their cuteness, but to comfort the children who visit her and welcome them to a typically stiff and intimidating environment. She also gives them llama stickers as a gift in hopes of making their day a little brighter.
“Children are everything,” she said. “They’re just filled with so much joy and making them happy at what is probably the worst part of their life, if (my job) is how I’m going to make a difference, then I’m going to do it the best that I can.”
While Voeks is not a member of any tribe, her husband and children are citizens of the Choctaw Nation. She did not intend to work for a Native nation; however, the experience has opened her eyes to a new segment of social services.
“Since working here, I’ve actually read the entire Indian Child Welfare (Act)Handbook,” she said. “And I understand now the overwhelming importance of keeping our families together.”
Voeks attended college as a nontraditional student and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in administrative leadership from the University of Oklahoma in Norman at 40 years old. Her path toward foster care and adoption included stints as a bail bond agent and a probation officer before working for the State of Oklahoma Department of Human Services.
While working for the state, she spent a few years as a school-based social services worker and at the Department of Corrections before joining the DHS Permanency Unit.
“Working in the school with the kids, my families, foster parents, all of that kind of opened up my eyes to social services as a whole. And once I got in, I … found a spot that made me happy helping the kids who weren’t capable of helping themselves,” Voeks said.
Now in her new position with FireLodge and CPN, she plans to continue her education by learning as much about foster care and adoption as possible, especially as it pertains to procedures and relationships with tribal Indian Child Welfare departments.
oeks has attended conferences and taken many training sessions since beginning with the Nation and enjoys reading in her downtime.
“(My trainings) were all geared towards foster care so that I could be better informed about the issues that my families are facing and the struggles of my foster kids. I’m still learning, and there’s so much more to learn,” she said.
As a grandmother of four, Voeks empathizes with the families she assists and works to make their lives better.
“If the situation was reversed, I would want someone working in foster care who is knowledgeable and capable of making sure that each family has everything they need,” she said.
“It makes you want to work harder because they’re going to need us. They’re going to need the Nation as a whole for the rest of their life.”
Voeks appreciates the support from the rest of the FireLodge staff as they work together every day to help Native families and hold the goal of reunification at the heart of their mission.
“The support our children and families get from ICW as a whole is unmatched, I feel,” she said. “This is an awesome place. The people who work here are genuinely good people. And so, I’m happy to be working with other people who have the best interests of our kids in mind.”
Find out more about FireLodge Children & Family Services at cpn.news/firelodge.