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Family Wellness Court

On June 25th, 1985, the Hupa people voted for to “REASUME STATE HELD JURISDICTION” in all Hupa Child Welfare cases under the Indian Child Welfare Act. Upon this directive from the people, the Hoopa Tribal Council authorized the development of the Hoopa Tribe Children’s Court and a Child Welfare Department. The Tribe began transferring children’s cases into the Court and the Hoopa Court began exerting jurisdiction over Hupa children. Over time, efforts to transfer these cases, or file them in Tribal Court faded until the Court/Tribe was not exerting jurisdiction over a single Hupa child and the Humboldt County Courts currently hear every Hupa Child Welfare Case. In an effort to regain some authority over Hupa Children in dependency cases, Hoopa Tribal Court made it a priority to, at a minimum, develop a joint jurisdiction Court and at a time when addiction due to the opioid epidemic is at an all-time high, the Court’s development could not be more important.


Humboldt County is on the front lines of the nation's opioid epidemic, with Hoopa leading the pack. According to the California Department of Public Health, Humboldt County has the state's second highest opioid overdose rate, one that is five times the state average. In this project, the Hoopa Valley Tribal Court will prioritize direct services to pregnant women, parents with children under the age of five, and infants with identified prenatal substance abuse in collaboration with Humboldt County Superior Court. 


Through joint powers of agreement, the Hoopa and Humboldt County Courts have partnered to create the Family Wellness Court as an alternative to the Humboldt County Juvenile Dependency System. The Family Wellness Court is presided over by two judges, a Hoopa Tribal Court Judge and a State Court Judge and operates under California State Law, Federal Law and Hoopa Tribal Law.  The joint jurisdiction Court embraces components of tribal healing and wellness informed with Hoopa traditions and culture. Wellness is achieved through a holistic approach to support the next generation. 


Several components of the joint jurisdiction court will prove to make participants more successful. First, the Court will come to the participants, rather than the traditional dependency cases heard only in Eureka at the Humboldt County Courts. Participants can choose where they want their case(s) to be heard. For example, should a parent reside in Hoopa, it makes no sense to force them to attend hearings an hour away. Additionally, rather than review hearings once every six months, the Family Wellness Court will hold regular hearings anywhere from one time per week to once a month, depending on the family progress and provide a team of resources to address any need that arises with the family. Instead of the family only communicating with one caseworker, the family has access to a team of professionals to assist them in their journey. The top priority/goal is always reunification, and the Court will provide the family with every tool available.


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