• Dec 2003/Jan 2004
  • Vol. 4, No. 10

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Culturally Competent Practice With Urban Indian Children and Families

Note: The development of this training curriculum was funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant # 90CT0057. This is the first in a new series of articles highlighting successful Children's Bureau Discretionary Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.

A few years ago, a survey of Illinois child welfare workers revealed most either hadn't heard of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) or didn't know what it was, despite a significant Native American population in that State (73,000 people claimed some degree of Native Ancestry in the 2000 census). Since 1999 the Loyola University School of Social Work has collaborated with the Native American Foster Parents Association and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to address this problem. Together, they created a comprehensive training curriculum to prepare child welfare professionals for culturally responsive practice that is in compliance with ICWA.

The curriculum was developed through an extensive needs assessment process that included interviews, focus groups, a literature review, and extensive input from community leaders and national experts. The final curriculum consists of four interrelated modules:

  • Review of Native American history
  • Overview of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978
  • Overview of Native American cultural values and practices
  • Practice competencies for culturally responsive child welfare work

More than 600 child welfare professionals and social work students have received the training to date. Evaluations of knowledge gained and participant responses to the trainings have been overwhelmingly positive.

One key to the project's success is the high level of Native American community involvement at all stages, from planning to implementation. Each training is presented by a team that includes a Native American trainer and a seasoned professional DCFS trainer. Trainees find this approach helps make the Illinois Native American population more "real" for them. Other keys to the project's success are the strong commitment to collaboration among key players and the high quality of the training materials themselves. The corresponding training video, "The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978: An Act of Conscience," received the 2003 Indian Summer Festival Film and Educational Award of Distinction Video Image Award and a Bronze Telly Award.

For more information about the project or how to obtain a copy of the curriculum, contact:

Maria Vidal de Haymes, Ph.D.
Loyola University Chicago, School of Social Work
820 N. Michigan
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 915-7020

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