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July/August 2004Vol. 5, No. 6Native American Community-Based Family Resource and Support Program

More than 150,000 Native Americans, representing 150 different tribes, live in Los Angeles County. Scattered throughout the county, these families are in many cases separated from their extended families, cultures, and traditional tribal support systems. Many live in poverty, facing substandard housing or homelessness, inadequate transportation, and drug and alcohol addiction. Their children come to the attention of the child welfare system at an alarming rate. The Southern California Indian Center in Los Angeles, CA, has developed the Native American Community-Based Family Resource and Support (CBFRS) Program to serve the unique needs of these urban Indian families.

The Native American CBFRS Program seeks to expand and enhance the culturally competent family support services offered to this population by providing individual and family therapy, in-home family support services, parent training, assessments, and information and referral services. The goal of these services is to preserve, strengthen, and stabilize families; safely prevent out-of-home placements of children; reunify children with their families when out-of-home placement can not be prevented; and ensure appropriate permanency plans, in compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), for children who cannot be reunified.

The project has developed a service delivery model designed to meet the unique needs of the population they are serving. Strengths of the model include:

  • Culturally competent staff. The project has a uniquely dedicated staff who are Native American or have extensive training and experience in working with the Native community. All are trained to work at the client's pace, to allow time for trust to develop. Visits with families take place in their homes, as often as necessary, and at times that are most convenient for the family.
  • Concrete support. Staff assist the family with whatever immediate concrete needs confront it. Those needs may include health or safety issues, school-related issues, housing issues, lack of appropriate food and/or clothing, lack of job training, or lack of adequate transportation.
  • Skill building. Project staff are committed to teaching clients the skills they will need to access community, State, and Federal agencies and resources in order to become more self-sufficient, competent, and stable.
  • Access to other culturally competent services. The Southern California Indian Center is a tribal organization of long standing and excellent reputation for its cultural awareness and sensitivity. CBFRS clients have access to all the programs and services offered by the Center, including programs to strengthen families and to provide substance abuse treatment, emergency assistance, job training, educational services for youth, cultural enrichment activities, and medical assessments.
  • Collaboration. The project also works closely with clients' tribes, the American Indian units of the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Mental Health, attorneys from the children's court, and with drug and alcohol programs. Through its relationships with these and other community service providers throughout the county, the program is able to facilitate clients' access to additional services such as legal services, psychiatric services, medical services, and county social services.

Native American CBFRS Program staff also provide consultation and technical assistance to the California State CBFRS (now called Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, or CBCAP) grantee, the State Department of Social Services, Office of Child Abuse Prevention. These services center around promoting staff members' ability to serve Native American families effectively, to make culturally appropriate placements in compliance with ICWA, to recruit and employ Native American staff, to deliver culturally relevant support services, and to develop strategies to improve outcomes for Native American families and children.

For more information about the Native American Community-Based Family Resource and Support Program, contact Kathleen Bridgeland, Project Director at (213) 387-5772.

Note: This program was funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant #90-KCA-1708. This article is part of a series highlighting Children's Bureau Discretionary Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.