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October 2004Vol. 5, No. 8Evaluating the Effectiveness of Tribal/State Title IV-E Agreements

Almost all American Indian tribes in the United States administer foster care and adoption assistance programs. While States are eligible to receive Title IV-E funding directly from the Federal government to implement these services, tribes are not. Many tribes are able to access these funds by entering into cooperative agreements with their States, which then provide pass-through funds to Title IV-E-eligible children under tribal jurisdiction. An article in the July/August 2004 issue of Child Welfare Journal, "Using Tribal/State Title IV-E Agreements to Help American Indian Tribes Access Foster Care and Adoption Funding," explores whether these agreements are effective in providing the funding tribes need to serve eligible Indian children.

By conducting telephone interviews and focus groups with tribal and State representatives in 15 States, researchers concluded that the agreements have been effective in helping tribes provide child welfare services. For tribes, these agreements have enabled them to increase the level of services provided to children, provide culturally sensitive services, and keep children with tribal members. State administrators feel that the agreements have been cost-effective, have helped States better comply with the provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and have helped Indian children achieve permanency faster than they did in the past.

A content analysis of existing Title IV-E agreements, contracts, or grants, however, found a number of limitations, including:

  • No standard Title IV-E agreement exists; agreements vary widely from State to State and tribe to tribe.
  • Many agreements lack specificity regarding standards and practices.
  • While all of the agreements reviewed include provisions for foster care administration, and most (94 percent) include provisions for foster care maintenance payments, only 29 percent of the agreements contain provisions for Title IV-E-eligible adoption costs and services.
  • Provisions addressing the training of tribal social service providers and foster and adoptive parents are largely absent from the agreements.

The authors offer the following recommendations to make tribal/State agreements more effective:

  • Tribal child welfare advocates should develop a model agreement that identifies key components and model contract language.
  • Tribes and States should consider developing agreements that include two parts: a general agreement that recognizes a government-to-government relationship between the tribe and State, and a contract to provide pass-through dollars from States to tribes.
  • Tribes and States must be aware that tribes are eligible for Title IV-E training and administrative costs.
  • Tribes and States should collaborate to improve intergovernmental relationships that will make the agreement process more successful.

This research was conducted under the sponsorship of the National Indian Children's Alliance. Reprints of the article can be requested from:

Gordon E. Limb, Ph.D.
Department of Social Work, Arizona State University West
4701 W. Thunderbird Rd.
Glendale, AZ 85306
Phone: (602) 543-6664