Social work has a long and varied (often negative) history with tribal governments in support of effective, culturally based child welfare services. Several Indian organizations have long supported the work of tribal child welfare professionals, and social workers have led these positive relationships (Cross, 2008; NRCT, 2011). Researchers also have long and varied (often negative) histories in Indian Country. In recent years, the federal Children's Bureau has funded several initiatives that included strong invitations for tribal partnerships. This has provided an opportunity for Indian serving organizations, schools of social work and tribes to engage in collaborative research and program development. There are many lessons to be learned from these dynamic partnerships, and effective research uses mixed methods to understand context, process and outcomes.
In this symposium we present results from three such initiatives. The newly formed National Resource Center for Tribes undertook a national needs assessment focused on tribal child welfare practice, including strengths and challenges and needs for program and policy development support. This is the first such comprehensive study of its kind, and used a strong mixed-method, culturally appropriate design. More than 400 individuals representing 95 federally recognized tribes took part in the multi-method, multi-constituency study. The Western Workforce project was funded to design, implement and test an organizational intervention in several child welfare settings, including two tribal sites. Though the intervention is ongoing, in this session we focus on the initial culturally specific organizational assessment tools, findings and data-driven intervention development approaches. The Mountains and Plains Implementation Center has funded three tribes to develop culturally-specific child welfare practice models. In this session we focus on evaluation of the Business Process Mapping approached used in the projects and the development of an approach to assessing cultural fit of technical assistance.
Tribes, Indian non-profits and schools of social work have many opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other. These partnerships call forth our strongest collaborative research skills and cultural humility approaches, and result in interesting, tailored, culturally specific methods; important findings; and exciting opportunities for program development and support. In this symposium we present the methods and findings from each study, and weave together the larger conclusions and implications for this important collaborative work.