• April 2002
  • Vol. 3, No. 3

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Transition Programs in Indian Country

A new report provides insights into independent living services provided to youth in American Indian communities.

Transition Programs in Indian Country, by Casey Family Programs and the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), looks at how child welfare agencies in Indian Country assist American Indian youth to leave foster care and transition to their adult lives. Directors, or designated representatives, of 86 Indian Child Welfare agencies were interviewed over the phone between December 2000 and May 2001. They represented 67 tribal child welfare agencies, eight Alaskan Native village child welfare agencies, and 11 off-reservation urban Indian programs. The report presents the following key findings and recommendations:

  • Basic transition services are likely missing from most programs; directors would like to add services such as life skills, social skills, mentoring, and subsidized transitional housing.
  • There is interest in potential funding through the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 and the Chafee Independence Program. To accomplish this, agencies must first be contacted by State officials, which is required by the Act.
  • Tribal programs, off-reservation urban programs, and Alaskan Native programs consistently offer cultural awareness services, a service often found lacking in mainstream programs.

Highlights of policy, research, and practice recommendations include:

Policy

  • Shift mainstream child welfare practice from policies and legislation based on "independent living" concepts toward policies congruent with American Indian standards to connect, or reconnect, foster care youth with supportive families and communities
  • Enforce compliance by State and Federal agencies with the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 requirements by facilitating consultations with each tribe in a given State
  • Continue services to young adults based on need and developmental level instead of age, which could mean extending foster care beyond age 21.

Research

  • Investigate model transition service programs in Indian Country identifying how cultural activities support transitions, and what service systems work best for American Indian youth

Practice

  • Note the importance of cultural awareness services and rites of passage programs in transition policy and practices
  • Respect and support cultural services provided by tribes and urban Indian programs
  • Recognize and engage tribes as sovereign and independent nations, and be culturally sensitive to the methods tribal representatives use to conduct business.

In addition, the National Resource Center on Youth Development is conducting a tribal youth project. For more information, contact Gay Munsell at 918-660-3700.

View or download the complete report in PDF format at http://www.nicwa.org/policy/research/NICWA_Transitions_9_24.pdf

Related Item

Read "Five Reports on Indian Child Welfare Released" in the July/August 2001 issue of the Children's Bureau Express.

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