Over the past five years, the Office of Children’s Services has worked with tribal partners to address the concerning issue of disproportionality in Alaska’s child welfare system. Alaskan Native children are significantly over-presented in the child welfare system. According to Department 2012 data, 22 percent of the state’s children are Alaska Native, yet they make up 64 percent of all children in out of home foster care.
Active partnerships through the Tribal State Collaborative Group (TSCG) and collaboration with the Western and Pacific Child Welfare Implementation Center (WPIC), which provided technical assistance and support, led to the identification and launching of the following strategies and approaches to address disproportionality:
Enhanced ability to track and monitor disproportionality data.
Helping tribes develop their infrastructure to serve high-risk families through the development of tribal in-home (prevention) services and practice models.
Linking OCS clients to direct services that are culturally consistent with the families served by OCS.
The development of Tribal Foster Care Licensing Standards — basically an entire set of culturally competent licensing regulations which have been deemed in accord with federal standards. These standards will allow tribes to license their own foster homes and place children in tribal custody in these homes.
While no significant decreases in disproportionality are yet observable in the data, this work has fostered rich discussion and reflection. Poverty and disparity are emerging as new areas of focus for exploration regarding their roles and significance in contemplating this complex issue.
State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
Office of Children's Services