• June 2008
  • Vol. 9, No. 5

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Improving Outcomes for Rural Native American Foster Youth

In an effort to address the specific needs of rural Native American foster youth in California, the San Diego State University School of Social Work has partnered with a number of organizations to develop comprehensive training programs for frontline workers and supervisors. The collaborative, called Tribal STAR (Successful Transitions for Adult Readiness), developed two training programs in partnership with Native American participants. "Creating Connections: The Gathering" was developed for frontline staff, and "Creating Connections: The Summit" was created for supervisory child welfare staff. Trainings cover the following topics:

  • Historical context of American Indians
  • American Indian values and culture
  • Overview of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
  • Identifying services for Tribal youth

Training materials consist of a participant manual, a journal to document feelings and action steps, a resource CD, and a series of digital stories distributed on DVD. Instruction takes place in a neutral environment and is conducted by a cross-cultural team of instructors. In addition to these trainings, Tribal STAR has worked with the Public Child Welfare Training Academy to develop "The Other Side of ICWA." This training addresses the spirit of the law, as opposed to focusing solely on meeting ICWA requirements.

Technical assistance provided by the collaborative reinforces training, facilitates transfer of learning, connects the training and the child welfare community, and provides assistance with ICWA cases across the State. Because relationship building with the Native American community is so important to the success of improving outcomes for these youth, technical assistance also focuses on strategies to connect and collaborate across communities.

Other successes experienced by Tribal STAR partners include the development of the "Checklist for Judges When Placing Indian Youth in Non-Indian Homes" and the establishment of Independent Living Programs on reservations.

A follow-up survey was created and distributed to training participants to measure the overall impact of the trainings for workers and supervisors. Initial responses indicate that participants increased their knowledge about ICWA and how it affects their practice, gained a greater awareness and understanding of Native American culture and traditions, and feel that the training made them more effective in delivering services to Native American children.

Additional information also can be found on the project's website:


For more information, contact the project director:

Dr. Anita Harbert
Director, San Diego State University School of Social Work
Tribal STAR Principal Investigator
Academy for Professional Excellence
6505 Alvarado Road, Ste. 107
San Diego, CA 92120

Addressing the Needs of Rural Native American Foster Youth is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CT00110, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Training for Effective Child Welfare Practice in Rural Communities. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.

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