Study of Coordination of Tribal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Child Welfare Services
- Pirkko Ahonen
- Kim Keating
- Julie Morales
- Chi Connie Park
- Carol Hafford
- Athena Diaconis
- Amanda Thomson
- Elizabeth Castro
This report details the experiences of 14 tribes and tribal organizations that received grants in October 2011 for Coordination of Tribal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Child Welfare Services to Tribal Families at Risk of Child Abuse or Neglect from the Office of Family Assistance, Administration for Children and Families (ACF). It is the last of three reports of the Study of Tribal TANF-Child Welfare, which was sponsored by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation in collaboration with the Office of Family Assistance, ACF.
The purpose of the Tribal TANF-Child Welfare grants was to encourage contextually relevant approaches to service coordination between Tribal TANF and child welfare systems. The grantees were expected to provide one or more of the following services:
- Improved case management
- Supportive services to tribal children in out-of-home placements
- Prevention services to tribal families at risk of child abuse or neglect
Grantees had flexibility to implement programs that fit each community’s context, culture, and needs. Accordingly, their coordination approaches and services were diverse. The grantees’ overall vision was to address child abuse and neglect by strengthening tribal families.
The purpose of the 4-year descriptive study was to inform practitioners, policymakers, and ACF about how the grantees coordinated and provided services for clients involved in both Tribal TANF and child welfare programs. The study goals were to document grantees’ service coordination, direct services provided, challenges and facilitators that influenced project implementation, and the extent to which grantees met their goals.
Key findings included the following:
- Coordination of services involved Tribal TANF and child welfare working as primary partners to serve at-risk tribal families. Many grantees also collaborated with other tribal and nontribal agencies to provide services through referrals. Collaborative decision making was grounded in tribal traditions of consensus building. The grant supported new relationships and coordinated resources.
- The services the grantees provided to strengthen families commonly centered on parenting education and family violence prevention. Many grantees initially focused on crisis management and then moved toward prevention to decrease the incidence of child abuse and neglect. Services reflected the importance of cultural and community connections to strengthen tribal families.
- Implementation facilitators and challenges evolved over time. Facilitators included committed leaders, staff, and partners; coordination processes and policies; and grant flexibility. Early challenges related to hiring staff and establishing interagency collaboration. Later challenges reflected the complex needs of families and the limited community resources to address those needs.
- Steps toward sustainability included exploring additional funding sources and other strategies. By the end of the grant, a few grantees had integrated elements of their projects into other tribal programs, colocated staff, established policies and procedures to sustain practices, and established partnerships with other agencies to maintain key services. However, many grantees continued to rely on grant funding and did not have formal structures in place to sustain their projects.