Social Services welcomes new staff, and stands behind its mission

Photo Credit: SU Indian Tribe

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Division of Social Services (DSS) welcomed a new Division Head, Amber Petersen, to work with and provide quality social services to the tribal membership. Peterson came onboard with DSS in March of 2021.  

“I am grateful and humbled to be able to work in this position,” Petersen expressed. “The people I’ve been able to meet and work with so far have been very kind and welcoming.” 

She was born and raised in northern Utah, and continued her education at Utah State University where she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Family Human Services. After graduation she moved to Alaska and worked there for the past 21 years. While in Alaska she worked with over 25 different tribes; working in the social services realm. Most of her work focused around working with elders, working in education and supporting and strengthening families through Child Protection Services. Not only did she provide opportunities for family units to learn, but also empowered them; Petersen now hopes to build lasting relationships with the membership here on the Southern Ute Reservation and its exterior boundaries. 

Not only did the division hire a new Division Head, they also added two new social workers, Dawn Todd and Hailey Beard, as well as a new Foster Care Program Coordinator, Morgan Olsson.  

Together, this new team of staff will promote their mission in providing services in a respectful and culturally sensitive manner. Keeping the safety, unity and stability of families and the community in mind – they continue to support positive changes for all at-risk adults, elders and children. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many tribal departments to make changes to services, DSS is currently closed to all in person meetings and is not allowing any visitors at their building per the “Safer at Home” order.  

During this time, staff are continuing to do this very important work in the community. They are providing immediate responses to client calls, emergencies, and will continue working in collaboration with the Southern Ute Police Department. The tribal hotline for child abuse and neglect will continue to be available. Therapy sessions will be provided over the phone and through Facetime or Skype with Family Therapist Angelina Whitehorse. Families who are seeking counseling can contact Angelina Whitehorse, Social Services Family Therapist at 970-563-2335 or via email at 

“DSS really wants to support families, we don’t want to and we try not to go into homes and take children away from their family – that is traumatic for everyone,” Petersen explained. “No family is perfect, my own family isn’t perfect, so when we are called into situations we want to support families first. The goal is always to work with parents, so the children are in a safe and stable environment.” 

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Division of Social Services would like to share resources with our tribal community. ⁣In recognition of this special month, the division will be hosting a drive thru event for the children, they will be handing out backpacks full of goodies on Thursday, April 29 outside the Mouache-Capote Building on Tribal Campus. There is also a chance for kids to win prizes for submitting a photo of their colored pinwheel which can be found in the last and latest issue of The Southern Ute Drum. “The entire staff of the Social Services Division invite each community member to join us in recognizing Child Abuse Prevention month through participating in some or all of the activities,” Petersen said. “We can work together as a community to help our children.” 

If you, or someone you know is experiencing child abuse in any form – please report it immediately to the Southern Ute Division of Social Services Hotline at 970-563-KIDS (5437). The hotline is completely confidential.  

If you are trying to reach the Division of Social Services please call 970-563-2339.  For emergencies call the Southern Ute Police Department 970-563-4401. ⁣ 




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