FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

The Power of Community-Based Services: Using the Strengths of Community and Parents to Improve Child Welfare Outcomes Cheryl Miller, Sheyala Jones and Andrea Smith “Port Gamble S’Klallam parents have a responsibility for caring for their children, bonding with them, making sure they are safe, and providing for all their basic needs. Aunts, uncles, grandparents and other extended family members help parents and their children when they need help by advising the parents in decision-making, showing love to the children, teaching values and respect, and taking over in parents’ absence. Grandparents share with their grandchildren the wisdom of their experience and traditional values.” — Title 21, Family Code, Section 21.01.01, Policy Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe “Every Child deserves a happy growing up life” — S’Klallam Elder, ICW Practice Manual, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe

S’Klallam Tribe, which has seen case counts steadily decrease to a current all-time low. It’s understandable why Indigenous com- munities might be interested in looking at alternative solutions to child welfare. While Native Alaskans and American Indians are a small percentage of the total U.S. population, they are disproportionately represented in child welfare cases. The effects of generational trauma, which plays a role in many of these cases, is rarely addressed outside marginalized communities. The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe (PGST), in their approach to Indian Child Welfare (ICW), has helped tribal families persevere despite all the obstacles and barriers inherent in the U.S. child welfare infrastructure, which can be particularly oppressive when applied in tribal communities. PGST’s approach is more flexible in its direct community support, willingness to tackle difficult conversations, and commitment to learning from the people they serve. They know that even the smallest issue, if not addressed, can lead to a domino effect that has the potential to fracture everyone’s hard work.

It takes a village. We’ve all heard this phrase before; it’s often used when describing what it takes to raise children, but — especially relating to kids in the child welfare system — it can be more of an idea than a reality. Increasingly, exceptions are found in Indigenous communities, like the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, who has adopted a community-based philosophy and approach in their child welfare practices. In this way, these communities have embraced their traditions and culture while recognizing the strengths of parents and extended family to create wrap- around services and solutions. This support helps build healthy families, confident kids, and strong caregivers. By turning away from the sometimes-rigid practices and policies of most current child welfare systems, Indigenous communities create a better way for their families, one that utilizes the assets and skills of the proverbial village. This approach has equaled better overall outcomes, including within the Port Gamble

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