Resource | Report

Tribal Child Welfare Systems’ Experiences With Prenatal Exposure to Alcohol and Other Drugs: A Case Study

Project: Prenatal Alcohol and Other Drug Exposures in Child Welfare

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Prenatal substance exposure (PSE) to alcohol and other drugs is a serious public health issue, yet little is known about its scope and treatment in tribal child welfare systems.

This study sought to—

  • Understand tribal child welfare policies and practices related to identifying, assessing/referring, and caring for children and families affected by PSE
  • Identify strengths-based and promising practices among tribal child welfare and allied systems and tribal communities regarding children with PSEs and their families
  • Explore tribal needs related to these practices
  • Identify potential recommendations for tribes, local and federal child welfare agencies, and public health agencies
  • Examine the current referral process for services and pathways for children and families to identify areas for improvement

Led by a tribal researcher, the team engaged the Ombimindwaa Gidinawemaaganinaadog Red Lake Family and Children Services agency to co-develop a case study that included a service process mapping activity and key informant interviews. Other tribal and agency representatives from the region participated in listening sessions.

This report summarizes key themes and the implications for tribal child welfare programs and federal agencies. For example, tribal agencies can mobilize tribal leaders to adopt child welfare practices that build on cultural values and strengths, and to change tribal legal codes to support family preservation. Similarly, federal agencies can help tribal agencies increase their capacity for collecting and using data, and engage in tribally informed collaborative research.