Defending Childhood American Indian/Alaska Native Policy Initiative: Supporting Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice Systems for Tribes

In 2014, the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) Children Exposed to Violence reported that the vast majority of American Indian and Alaska Native children live in communities with alarming rates of homelessness, extreme poverty, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual assault, historical/intergenerational trauma, and other types of violence. This exposure is relentless, and the resources to address these problems are limited. Members also heard about the importance of restoring traditional ceremonies and ancestral wisdom as an essential aspect of returning well-being to indigenous people and their children. The resulting report, Ending Violence So Children Can Thrive, proclaims the need for a re-imagined and re-created tribal juvenile justice system focused on prevention, treatment, and healing.

With its AI/AN national partners and AI/AN staff, AIR seeks to serve and support the vision of promoting the health and well-being of tribal youth, families, and communities by providing technical assistance to foster the development and implementation of innovative, culturally appropriate, and sustainable trauma-informed response models across all child-serving systems.

The project’s five goals are to

  1. establish collaborative relationships with individual grantees and create a cross-site Community of Practice;
  2. determine individual grantee and cross-site needs in the areas of training and technical assistance (TTA), policy, and fiscal resources;
  3. develop and implement individual and cross-site TTA plans to support trauma-informed, culturally appropriate tribal juvenile justice reform;
  4. create materials to support the implementation of trauma-informed and culturally appropriate services, to provide a foundation for train-the-trainer capabilities, and to promote sustainability; and
  5. analyze program data to drive program improvements and sustainability and to identify and articulate lessons learned.

Activities to be implemented include onsite orientation meetings, monthly cross-site Community of Practice teleconferences, in-person meetings of all tribal grantees, comprehensive TTA needs assessments, legislative and fiscal analyses, the development of TTA plans to be revised every 90 days, the development of quarterly Online Learning Events (OLEs) to be disseminated across sites, onsite training and TA as needed/requested, training and TA to support specific OJJDP priorities (family engagement, the development of safe houses, and diversion programs), the development of tools and resource documents as needs assessments dictate, and the development of a tribal-specific practice curriculum for creating trauma-informed child-serving systems