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Working Collaboratively with Tribal Communities Toward Prevention & Family Strengthening

The resources highlighted in this post are designed to help guide child- and family-serving agencies and service providers seeking to engage and collaborate with American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) organizations.

“The rule is to include tribal organizations BEFORE the pencil hits the paper, not when it’s time to sign in ink.”
(Tribal Organization Outreach and Collaboration, 2024)

According to the Capacity Building Center for Tribes, “Collaboration and Partnership between tribes and states are essential, not only to have effective ICWA implementation, but to improve outcomes for families by sharing information, resources, and practices. Intergovernmental collaboration is key to developing strategies and inclusive language to meet the needs of American Indian families impacted by states.” (Tribal Information Exchange)

It’s important to understand that collaboration may differ depending on the cultural context, level of collaboration, and type of tribal entity you are engaging. Building upon prior CalTrin trainings, the resources highlighted in this post are designed to help guide child- and family-serving agencies and service providers seeking to engage and collaborate with American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) organizations.

Tribal-State-County Collaboration Tools & Resources

When working with AI/AN children and families, it’s important to have foundational knowledge of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The purpose of the ICWA is “…to protect the best interest of Indian Children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children and placement of such children in homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture… ” (25 U.S. C. 1902). ICWA provides guidance to States regarding the handling of child abuse and neglect and adoption cases involving Native children and sets minimum standards for the handling of these cases. (Bureau of Indian Affairs)

Read The Indian Child Welfare Act: A Primer for Child Welfare Professionals, published by the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Visit the California Department of Social Services Office of Tribal Affairs website to learn about the California Indian Child Welfare Act (Cal-ICWA) State Plan.

California Training Institute (CalTrin)

Hey, that’s us! Access recordings and materials from prior CalTrin trainings related to this topic, keep an eye on the calendar for upcoming webinars and workshops, and explore our relevant resource collections:  

Note: You will need to log in to your CalTrin account to access the self-paced courses and select archived training materials. You can create a free account here.

Capacity Building Center for Tribes

The Center for Tribes collaborates with American Indian and Alaska Native nations to help strengthen Tribal child and family systems and services in order to nurture the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and families. The Center offers various services at no cost to assist Tribal organizations with improving child welfare practice and performance within several key areas.

The Tribal Information Exchange provides resources created and gathered by the Center for Tribes for tribal child welfare professionals and state and county partners. Take time to explore the Exchange’s Tools from Tribes and Resource Library.

Explore the Partnerships topic, which features tools and information to help guide and strengthen relationships as tribal and state governments find ways to effectively work together and achieve improved outcomes for Native children and families. This includes the Building An Effective Tribal-State Child Welfare Partnership portal and the Tribal-State Partnership Toolkit, which provides resources to support developing partnerships between tribal and state (or county) agencies and staff. Download it here.

Read the December/January 2024/Volume 24, Issue No. 10 of the Children’s Bureau Express (CBX),  Spotlight on Tribal Child Welfare

Read the September 2019/Volume 20, Issue No. 7 of the Children’s Bureau Express (CBX), focused on Considerations and Strategies for Engaging Tribes and Tribal Families.

Child Trends

Child Trends’ Indigenous Children and Families initiative aims to work in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to address adverse current community conditions stemming from historical and ongoing colonization and resulting in intergenerational trauma. Their work draws on Indigenous culture as a protective factor and strength for healing and promoting community resilience to advance the well-being of children and families. 

Child Welfare Information Gateway

As sovereign nations, tribes manage their own child welfare systems to support American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) families and honor Tribal values and priorities. The Child Welfare Information Gateway has put together a collection of resources to help build an understanding of key topics related to tribal child welfare and how states can work in partnership with tribes on various child welfare issues:

FRIENDS National Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention

FRIENDS provides service through a coordinated effort with other national organizations and initiatives with the aim of preventing child abuse and neglect and supporting families.

The Working with American Indian & Alaska Native Communities topic area provides state and local leaders with information to promote understanding in the field of family strengthening to proactively collaborate with tribal communities to promote health and well-being through culturally responsive prevention, including:

  • Collaborating with Tribes and Tribal Communities
  • Working with American Indian and Alaska Native Families: Spotlight on CBCAP Prevention
  • Engaging Native American Tribal Communities and Families
  • Culture is a Protective Factor: Family Engagement as a Path to Well-Being

National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI)

NCWWI’s Tribal Child Welfare Resources section aims to strengthen public and tribal child and family systems and services in order to support tribal sovereignty and nurture the safety, permanency, and well-being of Native American and Alaska Native children, youth, and families. Following is a sample of resources in NCWWI’s Tribal Child Welfare Resources library:

National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA)

The NICWA is a private nonprofit, membership-based organization dedicated to the well-being of American Indian and Alaska Native children and families. NICWA works to eliminate child abuse and neglect by strengthening families, tribes, and the laws that protect them.

Additional Research, Tools, & Briefs

California Courts / California Judicial Branch: Directory of Services for Native American Families (search by county, service type, or both)

California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center: California Indian Essential Understanding

National Crimes Against Children Investigators Association: The Overlooked Epidemic: Child Abuse in Indigenous and Native American Populations

Native Governance Center: A Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement

Office of Justice Programs (DOJ): A Process for Initiating Collaboration between Tribal Communities and Children’s Advocacy Centers

Programmatic Assistance for Tribal Home Visiting (PATH)/Administration for Children and Families: Culture, Collaboration, and Innovation: How Tribal Home Visiting Programs Are Working to Improve Outcomes for Children, Families, and Communities

Strategies Technical Assistance: 2024 Statewide Collaborative Prevention Convening: Tribal Partnerships are Prevention

*Last updated June 18, 2024