Child welfare practitioners need effective tools to assess children’s immediate safety and risk of future maltreatment. Factors such as poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy contribute to increased risk of child maltreatment in general and have been linked to increased risk of neglect in American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities.
This brief is a resource for human service professionals on child safety and risk assessments in AI/AN communities. It is informed by the work of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) with tribal child welfare professionals and by concerns in the field about the effectiveness of standard assessments in tribal communities. A majority of the tribal organizations that received ACF grants in 2011 to coordinate Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and child welfare services (9 of 14 grantees) used safety and risk assessments in their practice. Efforts to develop or modify risk and safety assessments are part of broader efforts to develop models that are based on native values and address the disproportionate removal of AI/AN children and placement in out-of-home care by state child welfare agencies.
The brief provides background on safety and risk assessments in child welfare practice, reviews the relevant literature, explores the importance of cultural appropriateness in assessments, and provides examples of tribes’ adaptations of assessments to fit their communities.