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June 2009Vol. 10, No. 5Accommodating Rural and Tribal Issues in Research

A recent paper from the Center for Human Services at the University of California (UC), Davis, suggests that child welfare researchers need to take into account certain principles in conducting, designing, and evaluating research in rural and Tribal communities. The principles include legal, political, and cultural factors contributing to differences in practice and outcomes with diverse populations. The paper was written in response to the California Child Welfare Research Agenda, which focuses on evidence-based practices involving differential response.

The authors of this position paper discuss three principles for research in rural areas:

  • Small samples in rural counties make comparisons difficult.
  • Rural and nonrural populations are qualitatively different.
  • The roles and responsibilities for rural and nonrural child welfare staff are not the same.

Similarly, the authors present four key principles that they believe should be considered in research relating to Tribal communities:

  • Adherence to the Indian Child Welfare Act may vary across regions.
  • Competence of practitioners and researchers on Tribal culture, political, and legal issues can impact research.
  • Tribal involvement in the research process is important.
  • Culturally sensitive research goals and tools need to be used in Indian child welfare research.

In addition, due to the high proportion of Tribal communities that exist in rural locations, many of the rural principles apply to Tribal populations as well.

The authors discuss these seven principles in terms of differential response research in California and offer suggestions for specific improvements that can better reflect the diversity of the population.

To access the full paper, “Rural and Tribal Issues in Child Welfare Research,” visit the UC Davis website: (186 KB)