Child welfare systems working to prevent abuse and neglect, reduce the number of children and youth being removed from their homes, and ensure safe family reunification and permanent homes face many challenges. For example, issues between the state and tribes in Alaska have hindered access to federal resources for Native Alaskan children, who are a majority of the children placed out-of-home in the state. In addition, child welfare cases for Navajo Nation families are spread across all 50 states with varying implementation practices. The Western and Pacific Child Welfare Implementation Center (WPIC) was funded by the Children’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2008 to 2013 to address these types of challenges.
AIR worked with the National Indian Child Welfare Association, Center for the Study of Social Policy, National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health at Georgetown University, and University of South Florida to provide long-term technical assistance to improve effectiveness of child welfare services in Los Angeles County, Navajo Nation, and a consortium of 16 tribes in Alaska.
Successful outcomes were driven by strong collaborative partnerships, effective coaching and mentoring, and using multiple approaches:
- WPIC worked with Los Angeles County Department of Children and Families to implement a robust, data-based decision making process at every level in the Department, develop a comprehensive strategic plan, and systematically involve stakeholders—including youth and their families—in decision making and permanency planning.
- WPIC trained Navajo Nation political leadership and elected officials—the Nataaniis—to conduct child abuse assessments and investigations, and make placement decisions to ensure that Navajo children and youth remain with Navajo families.
- In Alaska, WPIC worked with a consortium of 16 tribal organizations and the state to reduce child welfare placement of Native Alaskans. Tribal and state employees now work together when investigating tribal families. Tribal foster parent standards were re-written and native foster homes are being actively recruited to increase placements in native homes. Tribal participation in court procedures has been strengthened, and the number of Alaskan Native children taken into state custody has declined.