Tribal State Collaborative Group (TSCG) Collaborate Efforts
Over the last year (2010) OCS has taken several measures to improve its relationships with tribal agencies. OCS has identified open communication and authentic partnerships as essential building blocks to healthy partnerships with tribal agencies. Some of the areas that collaboration has been effective recently and have helped improve OCS relationships with tribal agencies are:
Tribal State Collaboration Group:
A series of meetings that occur 3 times a year between tribal agencies and OCS to discuss everything associated with Native families involved in the state child welfare system. A main area of work for this group has been around disproportionality. They have focused on how OCS and tribal agencies communicate and work together to help native families.
Knowing Who You Are workshops:
This process of workshops which involve supporting healthy racial and ethnic identity was brought into Alaska through the Tribal State Collaboration Group meetings. TSCG identified the need for all workers (OCS and tribal agencies) to be on the same page about healthy racial and ethnic identity, and so an initial 12 person (6 OCS and 6 tribal) training core was identified to be trained in Alaska. In the development of these workshops it was established that the workshops would include an equal amount of workers from OCS and tribal agencies. KWYA is now in the 2nd full year and has trained over 400 participants. The trainers and participants have been OCS staff, tribal agencies, and community partners. We have already begun to see how OCS and tribal agencies are using similar language which helps in the continuity of care for all families. This process also supports better communication and understanding of cultural differences in the foster home licensing recruitment process and identifying cultural strengths for serving native families.
OCS has also engaged in a partnership with the Alaska Child Welfare Disproportionality Project. This project is headed by the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA). The project has 15 other tribes/tribal organizations and the Court Improvement Project group as other partners joining in. The project focuses on how tribes and state can work as partners to eliminate disproportionality of native children in the child welfare system by looking at systemic practice change and identifying how OCS can link families to tribal services so that tribes and care for their own people. The National Indian Child Welfare Association, Federal Region X, and the National Resource Center have been partners in helping identify areas of assistance.
During the last year, OCS has made significant efforts to have their staff directly interacting with tribal ICWA workers face to face in hopes of building stronger working relationships. The OCS ICWA Specialist has traveled to areas across the state in several different capacities, from individual regional trainings with tribal ICWA workers to partnership meetings about specific concerns. The former Director of OCS (Tammy Sandoval) made trips to Kotzebue and Bethel specifically to help build relationships. The Statewide ICWA Coordinator has made in person visits to Bethel, Kotzebue, Juneau, and Kenai to help with facilitating relationship building with OCS case workers and tribal ICWA workers. Also, OCS has requested during major events (BIA Provider’s Conference, TSCG meetings, NICWA meetings, and Alaska Child Welfare Initiative) that any tribal worker who would like to participate in any OCS trainings are welcomed to join OCS. And OCS and tribal partners continue to co-facilitate ICWA Specialized training in the Anchorage and Juneau areas. During many of these meetings OCS has worked with partnering tribes to establish a consistent safe way for native tribal members to self identify their ability to participate as a foster home or relative home. And then, have someone help facilitate getting the tribal members identified as a foster care option or working through the licensing process.
Currently 10 tribal organizations are receiving ICWA grants. These grants were identified to have tribes and tribal agencies help OCS identify better ICWA compliance placements and to help recruitment more culturally appropriate foster homes. These work plans were created and established by the tribal agencies in efforts to be more consistent with how local communities or villages might respond to the recruitment. This grant process is in the 2nd year of a 4 year cycle and has already identified more native foster homes.