• Dec 2011/Jan 2012
  • Vol. 12, No. 9

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Methods of Evaluating Child Welfare in Indian Country: An Illustration

Many American Indian Tribes and Nations share in the belief that mainstream Western research largely overlooks the importance of Tribal approaches and voice. In response to this problem, researchers from the National Indian Child Welfare Association, Prevent Child Abuse America, and Purdue University Calumet explored the use of participatory evaluation—research that focuses on the culturally competent principle of community engagement. "Methods of Evaluating Child Welfare in Indian Country: An Illustration," recently published in Child Welfare, describes their research, details its strengths and difficulties, and presents a practice model for other agencies.

The researchers spent nearly 2 years developing a web-based survey for Indian youth ages 18 to 25. The survey collected participants' experiences as children and teens, allowing researchers to examine the relationship among victimization, delinquency, and protective factors for this population. A youth advisory group and institutional review boards ensured an ethical approach.

Article highlights include:

  • Research staff participated in focus groups conducted by Tribal community liaisons, and there was some confusion about procedure, showing that true equality between participants can create uncertainty of roles.
  • Collaboration between three disparate agencies sometimes produced difficulties in communication and decision-making; however, these challenges were addressed early and often by team members, which resulted in a strong and positive working relationship by project's end.
  • The study inherently provided buy-in for individuals in the Indian community, and this valuable role increased the chances of peer participation.
  • Project partners became familiar with the skills and approaches necessary to work efficiently with others of varying backgrounds.

The project resulted in a culturally appropriate online survey, the results of which will inform child welfare practice and future research in the lives of children, teens, and young adults in Indian Country.

"Methods of Evaluating Child Welfare in Indian Country: An Illustration," by Patricia Carter, Terry L. Cross, Javier Diaz, Kathleen Fox, Laura John, Thomas Pavkov, and Ching-Tung Wang, was published in the March/April 2011 (Vol. 90, No. 2) issue of Child Welfare and is available for purchase online:


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