Since 2003, the Administration for Native Americans (ANA), within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), has been providing funds for projects aimed at improving child well-being by promoting healthy relationships and families in Native American communities. The goals of ANA’s Family Preservation Initiative are: to increase the percentage of Native American children raised in healthy family environments; to increase public awareness among Native Americans about the value of healthy relationships, marriages, and responsible fatherhood; to ensure that family preservation services are culturally appropriate; to encourage absentee parents to be more involved in their children’s lives; and to increase the percentage of Native American homes that are free from domestic violence and child abuse.
Family Preservation program providers know that the families they serve face significant challenges that stem from a unique set of circumstances. Over the past hundreds of years, disease, warfare, broken land treaties, and forced relocation have left many Native American communities impoverished and dependent on government programs for survival. Government assimilation policies that restricted religious and cultural practices, the speaking of Native languages, and removed Native American children from their families to attend boarding schools have had a devastating impact on Native Americans sense of self-efficacy– the effects of which are still apparent today. This “historical trauma” is evidenced by low self-esteem, cultural shame, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug addiction and internalized oppression. These factors have an inescapable impact on family and marital functioning.
This Reference Guide is designed to assist Family Preservation program providers. It offers resources, strategies, and lessons learned on the predominant topics on which Family Preservation programs focus: 1) implementing family strengthening/relationship education programs; 2) delivering relationship education programming to married and unmarried adults as well as youth; 3) providing financial education to couples; 4) addressing challenges to family stability such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and gambling; and 5) offering parenting education, including guidance for fathers and grandparents.
In creating this document, the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center (NHMRC) gathered information from several Native American cultural experts as well as Family Preservation program providers. The Reference Guide includes resources in categories specific to serving Native American populations, as well as more generalized resources that a relationship skills instructor serving any population could find useful. It was created to serve as a repository of ideas, strategies, and techniques that Family Preservation program providers can adapt to fit their own community’s needs. (Author abstract modified)