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March 2009Vol. 10, No. 2Working With Native American Families

A recent article in the Journal of Public Child Welfare provides information to help child welfare workers better understand the cultural elements of effective practice with Native American clients. The article outlines the historical context of Native people in the United States, describes the world view and family dynamics of Native Americans, and provides practice and intervention strategies to help child welfare workers become more culturally responsive to their Native American clients.

The article's authors offer a number of practical suggestions for non-Native American child welfare workers to improve their cultural competence when working with Native American families:

  • Family models with a strength-based component may be more effective than traditional family deficit models.
  • Caseworkers should provide opportunities for self-determination and a sense of community, offering a holistic view that is relational (collective) instead of linear (individual).
  • Issues of child abuse and neglect should be addressed in terms of wellness and a sense of balance through the context of mind and spirit.
  • It is important to understand each family’s cultural and spiritual/religious beliefs rather than assume that all Native Americans adhere to the same list of values.
  • The client is the best source of information about whether an intervention is working.

"Social Work With Native People: Orienting Child Welfare Workers to the Beliefs, Values, and Practices of Native American Families and Children," by Gordon E. Limb, David R. Hodge, and Patrick Panos, was published in the Journal of Public Child Welfare, Vol. 2(3), and is available for purchase on the Haworth Press website: