Participating in Court Proceedings on Behalf of Alaska Native Children

Alaska Native children are seven times more likely than non-natives to enter the state’s child welfare system. To protect the interests of these children and promote stability and security among families and tribes, federal law allows tribes to be involved in legal proceedings about child welfare and custody.

However, the vast geographic distances between remote tribal locations and the courts frequently result in Alaska Native tribal workers participating in court proceedings by telephone instead of in person. Many tribal workers have never been to court and feel overwhelmed by the task of communicating with judges and participants.

To address these issues, AIR staff partnered with the National Indian Child Welfare Association to develop an online training for tribal workers in conjunction with Alaska Native tribes and the state. Be the Voice: Working Effectively with Courts helps tribal workers understand their role in court, build skills in presenting and participating effectively by telephone, write informative reports, understand legal procedures, and advocate on behalf of Alaska Native children. The online training was based on material shared during a training institute for tribal workers.

“My people are natural story tellers,” said one tribal worker who participated in the training institute. “This helped me see that the court report tells the story of a child. That took the fear away.” The online training is available for tribal workers across Alaska and is relevant for child advocates in other states.

The training was developed as a part of the Western and Pacific Child Welfare Implementation Center (WPIC) project funded by the Children’s Bureau of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information, contact Marketa Garner Walters, WPIC project director, at