IRVING, N.Y. — The old saying goes, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' But Nicole Seneca believes 'It takes a tribe.'
Together Nicole and her husband JC Seneca have 6 children. They adopted their youngest daughter in 2018. But over the years, they've cared for countless others through fostering and also through kinship.
"We're just here to help in whatever way we can. We've had kids for a day. We've had kids forever," said Nicole.
Through her experiences, Nicole discovered distinct differences between foster families and kinship. She said when foster parents take children who are not related to them into their homes, they're provided with training, stipends and other support from the agencies or county. But with kinship, which is preferred on the Seneca Nation through the Indian Children Welfare Act, adults care for younger relatives, sometimes suddenly and without notice, and they often have no help at all.
"Kinship on it's own is really good for ensuring a child maintains their culture and identity, however it kind of leaves us hanging. There are no supports with it. They don't receive stipends or financial assistance. They don't receive support that foster parents do," said Nicole. "So what I've noticed is that people need support. They need to be helped. So that's kind of what I do. I fill in the gaps."
Nicole does that through the organization she launched in 2018 called "It Takes a Tribe."
Not only does she fundraise to take the children on outings like tubing, the zoo, and Bandits games for a little fun and normalcy, but she also gratefully accepts donated items, food, school supplies and gifts, and then distributes them.
She's had a Girl Scout troop donate boxes of diapers, and an anonymous couple deliver two truckloads of non-perishable foods, promising more.
"I'm not even sure how they found us. They both were like, 'we just want to help. We're just working for God and we felt this was a really good place to do that and to put our energy," said Nicole.
Nicole said she's overwhelmed by the kindness from the community, and touched by handmade items. A woman from Potsdam knitted hats, mittens and scarves, and a sewing circle led by one of the Nation elders made quilts and pillowcases.
"I gave [a boy] a pillow and he went running to his foster mom and said, 'I have never had a brand new pillow ever.'"
It's the little things that so many people might take for granted that can truly make a difference to the children helped by Nicole and her organization "It Takes a Tribe."
"I hope and I know that they feel like their community loves them," she said.
If you'd like to donate to "It Takes a Tribe," or learn more about the organization, click here for a link to the Facebook page.
To nominate a person or group to be featured as a "Good Neighbor" on Channel 2, send an email with details to Melissa.Holmes@wgrz.com .
To see more "Good Neighbors" stories, click the videos below.