College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines

Updates for students, alumni, and supporters

UND Social Work, partners secure $2.5M to improve state’s American Indian/Alaska Native Child Welfare Outcomes

L-R: Harmony Bercier, Carenlee Barkdull, and Bret Weber, the Chair of the UND Department of Social Work

The University of North Dakota Department of Social Work at the College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines and its partners have received a second five-year $2.5 million federal award from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to continue their work statewide to reduce the disproportionate placement of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children away from their families and communities and to improve child welfare outcomes for Native children and families.

UND’s Social Work Department and valued partners, the Native American Training Institute; the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation; the Spirit Lake Nation; the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians; the North Dakota Supreme Court (Court Improvement Project); the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, and the Children and Family Services Section of the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services, hope to build on the program, policy and procedural changes of the previous grant, attained through the collaborative work of the North Dakota Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Partnership. For this round of funding, the UND School of Law also brings faculty with national expertise in ICWA to the team.

Carenlee Barkdull
Carenlee Barkdull

“The first grant focused on cross-systems change and resulted in numerous innovations to ICWA-related training, policies and procedures,” said Carenlee Barkdull, principal investigator for the grant and a UND Social Work faculty member. It also led to the creation of the ICWA Family Preservation (IFP) Program, housed at the Native American Training Institute (NATI) in Bismarck.

Harmony Bercier, program developer with NATI, is excited about the opportunity to expand the Partnership’s impact. “After a successful pilot project in Grand Forks and Burleigh Counties, the IFP Program has received state support to go statewide,” Ms. Bercier explained. “This holds real promise for substantially reducing the disproportionate numbers of Native children in our state’s foster care system while improving outcomes for children, families, and communities.”

The ICWA Partnership will continue to support interagency relationship building and best practices in the implementation of the federal and newly adopted state ICWA regulations and guidelines to support improved outcomes for Native children and families involved with the child welfare system.

The original ICWA Partnership focused on building relationships, developing quality stakeholder training curricula, and empowering Tribal partners to lead the work. The newly funded partnership will maintain these critical elements of the original partnership. New objectives will include rigorous evaluation of the expanded IFP Program, ICWA/QEW training development and evaluation, improved data collection and sharing practices, and collaborative efforts to identify and implement “best practices” that contribute to improved outcomes for Native American children, families and Tribes.

About the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is a federal law that seeks to keep American Indian children with their families. This legislation was a response to the disproportionately high number of Native children being removed from their communities. It offers protections that include tribal involvement in situations where American Indian children are removed from their communities, active efforts to reunite families safely and expectations of culturally-informed services.

About the Administration for Children and Families

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is a division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The programs provide financial assistance to public and non-profit programs that meet the needs of children and families, including welfare, child support, adoption, foster care, and child abuse. ACF’s mission is to promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, youth, individuals and communities who are resilient, safe, healthy and economically secure.

Media Contact:

Carenlee Barkdull
Professor, Department of Social Work
UND College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines


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