Menu Close

Working with Tribal Communities to Address Generational Trauma & Promote Resilience

The resources highlighted in this post are designed to help child- and family-serving professionals better understand the generational trauma experienced by tribal communities and authentically engage AI/AN families to promote individual and collective resilience.

“The historical losses experienced by North American Indigenous people are not ‘historical’ in the sense that they happened long ago and a new life has begun. Rather, they are ‘historical’ in that they originated long ago and have persisted.” (Whitbeck, Walls, Johnson, Morrisseau, & McDougall, 2009)

In this post, we build upon the tools and resources shared in our Introduction to Childhood Trauma: Resources & Tools for Providers blog to provide an overview of research on trauma and its specific relevance for American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children, including the prevalence, characteristics, and impact of generational trauma on tribal communities. To effectively engage tribal families and communities, child welfare professionals must be aware of this history of violence, displacement, and forced assimilation. (Child Welfare Information Gateway)

Pulling from prior CalTrin trainings that were delivered within CalTrin’s Trauma-Informed Systems domain, the resources highlighted in this post are designed to help child- and family-serving professionals better understand the generational trauma experienced by tribal communities and authentically engage AI/AN families to promote individual and collective resilience.

AI/AN Trauma-Related 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. Get started:

Explore the Healing & Trauma topic, which includes case studies, innovative projects, webinars and presentations, and more resources on healing, self-care, trauma-informed practice, engaging native families, and building capacity. Learn more.

Explore the Strengthening Families topic, which focuses on helping Tribal families to reflect, learn, and build skills for the life they want for themselves, their children, and their community. Learn more.

Center for Native Child and Family Resilience (the Center)

 As part of a Children’s Bureau initiative to raise awareness of Tribally engaged prevention and intervention efforts, the Center partners with Indian Tribes to examine solutions for healing the ongoing family trauma persisting in the aftermath of the numerous historical injuries shared by many tribal communities, including the break-up of Indian families and child removal.

The Resources page provides Tribal communities with a variety of information and tools that can be used to answer key questions related to the development, implementation, and sustainability of culturally-based and resilience-enhancing programs. Learn more.

The Relevant Literature collection describes practices that have been used in tribal communities to confront and address child maltreatment. Learn more.

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:

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.

National Native Children’s Trauma Center (NNCTC)

As a Category II Treatment and Service Adaptation Center within the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the NNCTC focuses on increasing service providers’ ability to respond to the trauma-related needs of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children and youth in culturally appropriate ways.

Visit the Resources section of the NNCTC website for additional resources on trauma and resilience, including:

Tribal Youth Resource Center

Funded by The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Tribal Youth Resource Center supports tribal efforts to improve juvenile justice systems for American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) youth.

Additional Research, Tools, & Briefs

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

Children’s Bureau Express: Considerations and Strategies for Engaging Tribes and Tribal Families

Depressed Affect and Historical Loss Among North American Indigenous Adolescents by Les B. Whitbeck, PhD, Melissa L. Walls, PhD, Kurt D. Johnson, BA, Allan D. Morrisseau, BA, and Cindy M. McDougall (2009)

FRIENDSNational Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention: Understanding the Impact of Historical & Intergenerational Trauma

Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health: Healing Historical Trauma: Native American Researchers are Turning Long-Held Traditions into Novel Public Health Solutions

Mathematica Policy Research: Addressing Trauma in American Indian and Alaska Native Youth

National Child Welfare Workforce Institute: Assessing Trauma in American Indian/Alaska Native
Parents as an ICWA Active Effort

SAMHSA: AI/AN Culture Card: A Guide to Build Cultural Awareness

Watch & Listen


*Last updated May 29, 2024