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Dec/Jan 2008Vol. 8, No. 11Working With Urban American Indian Families

The Denver Indian Family Resource Center has a 7-year history of helping American Indian families involved in the child welfare system in the Denver area. For more than 3 years, the Center developed and implemented a special project, in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Quality Improvement Center, to provide services for American Indian families involved with the child welfare system and affected by drug and alcohol abuse. Drawing on these experiences, the Denver Indian Family Resource Center produced a resource guide for other practitioners who work with urban American Indian families in the child welfare system.

Working With Urban American Indian Families With Child Protection and Substance Abuse Challenges is divided into two sections. The first part focuses on providing the worker with relevant historical and contextual information, including information about Tribal affiliation and enrollment. Suggestions for engaging families are also included. The second section offers both system-level approaches and direct practice interventions to support successful outcomes for children and families. System-level approaches include:

  • Early identification of American Indian children
  • Training of child welfare staff
  • Commitment to kinship placements and support for extended family systems
  • Commitment to maintaining children's cultural connections
  • Collaborative partnerships

Direct practice interventions include:

  • Engagement with parents and caregivers that focuses on building relationships
  • Culturally appropriate mental health and substance abuse assessment and treatment
  • Intensive case management
  • Wraparound teams and team decision-making meetings

One key to successful practice is the full commitment of child welfare staff at every level to working collaboratively with extended family members, community-based agencies, and other professionals who serve Indian families and Tribes. Examples of this collaboration are found in the appendix of the resource guide, which includes two scenarios to help workers visualize how they can best help families address these challenges.

The resource guide was written by Nancy M. Lucero and is available on the Rocky Mountain Quality Improvement Center website, a part of the American Humane website: (564 - KB)

Related Item

Children's Bureau Express recently wrote about the Rocky Mountain Quality Improvement Center in "Addressing Substance Abuse and Child Maltreatment: The RMQIC" (September 2007).