Tribal State Collaboration Group
TSCG began in 1994 with representatives from the State of Alaska and Tribes from Alaska. Meetings were held to discuss current issues of how Alaska Native families we being treated in the child welfare system and about the state of Alaska's ability to follow the required ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) federal requirements. Meetings were held on a regular basis to tackle current systemic problems and also to help build a bridge between the entities for positive relationships. Throughout time the format of meetings and the representatives have changed but the partnerships continue today. Focus has always been around how change can continue to happen to better support the Indian Child Welfare Act. And to better serve the Alaska Native and American Indian families.
TSCG has made efforts in many areas focused around partnerships and improving the child welfare system for those Alaska Native or American Indian families who are involved in the system. Through out the years TSCG has been able to identify areas to work on together. The first area addressed was creating a Tribal/State agreement about how communication would work and what areas of focus there would be. Other successes TSCG has had:
- Creating ICWA Specialist positions in every region of the Office of Children's Services. This position reviews all Native families who are involved with the state of Alaska and legal custody (AND) the children are not living in their home. The ICWA Specialist review each of these families and make recommendations to OCS workers in accordance with policies and laws. These workers also discuss cultural continuity practices and compliance with Federal ICWA laws.
- Creating ICWA help Desk position in Anchorage. And in 2010, 3 other positions followed through a separate process. The Help Desk position is employed through either a Tribe or a Native organization, not employed by the State of Alaska. These positions help partner with OCS in doing relative contacts and placement searches for children in need, obtaining certificates of Indian blood, family support structures, and referrals for culturally appropriate services.
- Casey Family Programs brought TSCG members Undoing Racism workshops and Knowing Who You Are events.
The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB) out of New Orleans was brought to TSCG by Casey Family Programs in 2004. PISAB's workshop on Undoing racism established discussions on critical thinking, a child welfare power analysis, definition on racism, internalized racial oppression, and different forms of racism (cultural, institutional, individual). This workshop helped TSCG members start working more specifically with same language and organizing.
KWYA reinforced positive racial and ethnic identity for all people. KWYA events help participants identify definitions for discrimination, stereotypes, racism, and power. It also helps each participant through of process of their own to understanding their own racial and ethnic identity. The result was that each state worker and Tribal worker would be able to better support Native families when addressing issues of race and ethnicity.
- Co-creating a ICWA training for all state workers and Tribal workers. The 2-day specialized training outlines historical trauma, racism, and the Federal ICWA laws. It also goes through the life span of case from beginning to end when involved in state custody.
- ANFP Unit (Alaska Native Family Preservation) which was an idea brought on through collaborative work between the State of Alaska, the Native village of Eklutna, Cook inlet Tribal Council, and Casey Family Programs. This unit is the first of it's kind across the country, where 2 workers from the state, a Tribe, and a Native organization work on a unit together. The focus is on in-home services with Native families with a goal of helping them never enter into the state system.
- Several different partnerships in workshops, trainings, and other ventures to name a few.
- Most recently OCS has signed on as a partner with the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida under a grant through the Federal Region X office. The work is through the WPIC (Western Pacific Implementation Center) with focus on Tribal in-home services and direct services that are culturally consistent with the families we serve.
We are proud to say that even though the road from 1994 to present has been long, sometimes hard, and sometimes tenuous, that we have moved forward in addressing racial disproportionality with our partners from the Tribes, Alaska Native organizations, and community partners. Today the focus of work is on how we work with families by understanding them and where they come from. Also, to keep working towards true authentic partnerships and to continue to work system changes to address the disproportionate number of Alaska Native families in the state system.