Place Category: Specialized Court Projects
- STATE OF ALASKA & ALASKA TRIBES
ALASKA TRIBAL CHILD WELFARE COMPACT
- PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
- PLANNING & IMPLEMENTATION
- PROGRAM OUTCOMES
Summary: The Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact is a one of a kind landmark government-to-government agreement between the State of Alaska and Alaska Tribes and Tribal organizations that recognizes the Tribes’ inherent authority to oversee placement of their children and provide child welfare services. This umbrella agreement broadly defines the services and support that are to be carried out by each Tribe (Co-Signer) within their service area and memorializes how information and resources are shared between the State and each Co-Signer. This unique Compact has been created in the hopes of reducing the disproportionate number of Alaska Native children in State custody and improving the lives of Alaska Native families state-wide.
196 Tribes across Alaska and the State of Alaska
Program Running Length:
October 2017 to present
P: (907) 355 – 7200
Kenaitze Indian Tribe
PO Box 988
Kenai, Alaska 99669
State of Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States. Its 586,412 square miles of land is twice the size of Texas and it boasts some the Nation’s most remote locations. Much of the land is rural and can only be accessed by plane and/or boat. Additionally, the State has over 200 rural Native villages, many with 300 – 350 members or less.
The State of Alaska has the most federally-recognized tribes (229), in addition to 12 for-profit regional corporations, over 200 for-profit village corporations, and 12 Native not-for-profit organizations. Each distinct tribe and corporation embrace their own cultural customs, traditions, and often languages. Out of the 229 Alaskan tribes, 196 are represented in the Compact.
“ is intended to improve and strengthen the child welfare services administered by the State directly and through Co-Signers; recognize and support the authorized child welfare services administered and carried out by Tribes directly and indirectly through authorized Tribal Organizations and for the benefit of the State; and to improve the effectiveness of services of the State, Tribes, and Tribal Organizations by encouraging and providing for collaboration and cooperation in the administration of child welfare and the protection of Alaska’s children. This Compact shall be carried out in ways that strengthen the government-to-government relationship between the State and Tribes and to promote the autonomy of the Tribes in Alaska in the realm of child welfare services.”The Compact focuses first and foremost on Alaska Native children and secondly on their families.Although the Compact was only recently signed, the work towards its development began over 20 years ago with the Tribal-State Collaboration Group. The Collaboration Group has brought Tribal and State governments together for the past 23 years to discuss and share information, strategize solutions, and foster relationships. In 2014, they released the “Alaska Child River of Culture” report, which illuminated the need for an increased focus on the welfare of Alaska Native children and their families.
This report was compounded by the publication of the “Ending Violence so Children Can Thrive” report in 2014. Led by Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., the report spread awareness about children’s exposure to violence. Over the course of a year, Holder and his team held a number of focus groups with families and children across the United States. The focus group in Alaska initiated the conversation around the Compact.The primary goal of the Compact is to improve the lives of Alaska Native children and families by reducing the number of children in State custody and increasing the number of children who are placed within their home communities. Additionally, the Compact aims to serve families closer to their homes in a way that reflects their culture and traditions, ultimately making families more receptive to engaging and changing negative behavior that lead to removal to a child.The Compact is an umbrella government-to-government agreement between the State of Alaska and Alaska Tribes and Tribal Organizations (Co-Signers). The eleven-article Compact grants authority to each Co-Signer to oversee the placement of their children and the provision of Child Welfare services within their defined service area. The articles also provide details on funding, details on services which can and should be provided to the child, and describe the broader purpose and scope of the Compact as a whole.
The Compact is purposefully broad as it applies to more than one Co-Signer (Alaskan Tribe/Organization), all of whom have their own tribal leadership and distinct cultural customs. However, additional details for each Co-Signer area are defined in separate Service, Support and Funding Agreements (SSFAs).
The first two scopes of work (services) transferred to Co-Signers are: (1) Diligent Relative Searches, and (2) Safety Evaluations. Co-Signers and the State have continued meeting to finish drafting the other scopes of work as quickly as possible, in the hopes that Co-Signers that have the capacity to and are willing to take over the whole range of child protection and child welfare services will be able to do so in the near term. In fiscal year 2020, more Tribes will be eligible to join as Co-Signers.The government-to-government agreement is overseen and coordinated by the State of Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services, Office of Children’s Services, and each Co-Signer. Each Co-Signer has designated individuals within their organization that are responsible for overseeing and coordinating child welfare services within their service area.The Compact itself did not require any funding; instead, Tribes receive individual funding for their staff as they take over services.The State has worked with Co-Signers to set up trainings for tribal staff taking over services, and has made itself available for any questions that arise. The negotiation and drafting process of the Compact was modeled on the process used for compacts with federal entities, such as the Indian Health Service, and attorneys/consultants with extensive experience in those negotiations have been engaged in this effort.The Compact alone is a strong partnership between tribal entities and the State. Some Co-Signers have separate partnerships to provide services, assistance and/or access to resources, although these relationships are outside the Compact.One of the key factors contributing to the Compacts’ success is the existing relationship between the State and the Tribes, developed through the Tribal State Collaboration Group. The reporting that raised awareness of child welfare issues also added urgency and some external motivation to the Compact’s creation and passage. Factors that contribute to successful implementation, include frequent and thorough staff training, information sharing, and use of the State’s computer system.Developing the Compact has involved several challenges, including the need to he resolve questions of how to fund these efforts and to make that funding continue and increase in the future as Tribes take on additional services; drafting language that reflected the unique status of tribal entities, including discussion of sovereign immunity waivers, addressing confidentiality issues, and finding the enormous amount of time necessary to get the documents drafted.Through the Compact process, the Tribes and the State have learned to work with one another on a different level. They have tried to reach consensus on difficult issues, which has helped maintain a productive and receptive relationship between the Tribes and the State.The Compact serves 196 Tribes, their children, and their families.The Compact’s novelty makes it difficult to gauge its effectiveness up to this point. However, a formal evaluation of the Compact is currently underway.The Alaska Native communities, along with the Native American communities, have been very supportive of the Compact. Additionally, the U.S. Surgeon General has also been supportive of the Compact.
- STATE OF ALASKA & ALASKA TRIBES
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