Off-Reservation / Urban American Indian Perspectives and Attitudes Towards Child Welfare Services

Off-Reservation / Urban American Indian people are haunted by multi-generational historical trauma that carries over into generations of today. Through governmental termination and forced assimilation practices, families were torn apart, and parenting practices obstructed. These policies created a system that, to this day, disproportionally removes American Indian children from their homes and places them into foster care, often with non-American Indian people; a damaging process that devastates tribes and disconnects future generations. With a broken relationship between the government and American Indian people, it is important to understand the perceptions of the American Indian population in order to improve outcomes. The off –reservation/urban American Indian population has a particularly unique perspective in that they may live differently and may not have access to the same culturally appropriate resources and familial and tribal connections as those who live on the reservations. This study explores off reservation/urban American Indian perspectives and attitudes towards Child Welfare Services with a particular focus on social workers, American Indian foster homes, and the Indian Child Welfare Act. Through an analysis of 10 qualitative interviews, a variety of themes emerged and brought insight into the need for family services as well as potential barriers between off-reservation/urban American Indian people and Child Welfare Services. Participants saw social workers as intending to be helpful, but working within a broken system. This broken system contributes to the lack of cultural intelligence of social workers and the lack of knowledge, implementation, and enforcement of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), as well as contributes to the barriers to American Indians becoming foster parents.