National CASA Continues Commitment to Tribal CASA Programs

Sally ErnySally Erny, Chief Program Officer, National CASA Association

Summary: Tribal court CASA programs are an important part of the solution for abused and neglected children, training community members to be vocal, independent and effective advocates for child victims of neglect, as well as of physical and sexual abuse.

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As in so many communities across the country, child abuse and neglect are pervasive problems in Native American communities. Additionally, Indian children are dramatically overrepresented in state court child welfare systems.

The National CASA Association’s tribal court CASA initiative is designed to support the development and operation of tribal court CASA programs providing volunteer court appointed special advocates for American Indian and Alaska Native children who have been abused or neglected. There are currently 17 tribal court CASA programs in varying stages of development and operation, ranging from four in the new program development stage to 13 active, established programs.

There are two types of tribal CASA programs. One is a program that serves only the tribal court. The other is a dual model that serves both the tribal and state court. As of this date, all of the tribal CASA programs are west of the Mississippi.

Tribal Court CASA Programs:

Serving tribal courts only:

  • Ukteaquik CASA Program, Barrow, AK
  • Yukon-Kushokarm Delta CASA Program, Bethel, AK
  • Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal CASA Program, Fort Yukon, AK
  • Kenaitze Indian Tribal CASA, Kenai, AK
  • Gila River Indian Community CASA Program, Gila River, AZ
  • Northern California Intertribal CASA Program, Yurok, CA
  • Coeur D’Alene Tribal CASA Program, Plummer, ID
  • Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde, Grand Ronde, OR
  • Oglala Lakota CASA Program, Pine Ridge, SD
  • Kalispel Tribe CASA Program, Usk, WA
  • Yakama Nation CASA Program, Toppenish, WA
  • Spokane Tribal CASA, Wellpinit, WA

Serving tribal and state courts:

  • CASA of the Four Corners, Cortez, CO
  • Okmulgee County/Creek Nation CASA, Okmulgee, OK
  • Pawnee Nation CASA, Pawnee, OK
  • CASA of Cherokee County, Tahlequah, OK
  • East Central CASA, Brookings, SD

Since 1995, National CASA has provided specialized training and technical assistance to tribal CASA programs. Michael Heaton and Paige Beard, regional program officers, are the primary providers of support and consultation on program management issues.

In addition to the one-on-one technical assistance, we host a monthly conference call for all our tribal program directors, as well as two in-person meetings annually. One is a two-day meeting for the purposes of training and networking; the other is a half-day meeting held in conjunction with our national annual conference.

We are currently providing financial support to the majority of our tribal programs through funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). In addition to National CASA grant funds, state funding is available to tribal programs in Colorado, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Washington.

Native communities and tribal courts across the country face myriad challenges. The situation facing Alaska Native children is particularly difficult. While the state embodies many of the challenges mentioned in Native communities across the country—huge geographic areas and people living in extremely remote settings—additional factors are at play. In Alaska, 15% of children live in poverty and 42% have no parent with full-time year round employment. Alaska Native children represent more than 60% of the state’s population of children in foster care and are disproportionally represented in foster care at a rate three times that of Alaska Native children’s proportion in the child population. In addition, the large numbers of languages spoken throughout the state and tribal villages result in an additional challenge to service provision.

Because of the unusual challenges faced by Native children in Alaska, National CASA has, with the generous support of OVC, embarked on an effort to expand CASA advocacy in the state. We have initiated a collaborative with a number of Alaska Native communities and courts, the state Office of Public Advocacy and the Friends of Alaska CASA organization. Through this collaboration we are developing three new programs in Alaska: one in the Bethel region, another in Barrow and a third in Fort Yukon. (For more information about this expansion, see the Summer 2010 National CASA Connection magazine.)

Tribal court CASA programs are an important part of the solution for abused and neglected children, training community members to be vocal, independent and effective advocates for child victims of neglect, as well as of physical and sexual abuse. National CASA is proud of our commitment to the development and strengthening of programs serving Native American and Alaska Native children.

For more information about National CASA’s work with tribal courts visit the Tribal CASA page of this website.

 

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