Tribal Systems of Care Support

The National Indian Child Welfare Association’s (NICWA) approach to technical assistance (TA) is to help find and build upon solutions and resources already available in the community and to empower local leaders, program people, and advocates to create and implement their own solutions to local problems. NICWA believes that few solutions imposed from outside are ever effective in Indian communities, as people or groups from outside cannot bring about change. What can be brought and useful to a community is help with problem-solving skills and strategies, facilitation of community process, and sharing of technical information or knowledge to show people how to achieve their own goals. Only careful assessment will result in a measurable TA plan with the allocation of scarce resources on those areas with the greatest yield for the investment.

We view our role at NICWA as a facilitator. We help communities that have not done so create a vision for their community or program and facilitate the development of goals, objectives and priority setting as well as the development of work plans. We share models of what has worked or previously been tried by other tribes and bring technical knowledge and how-to training to direct service providers and project directors. We demonstrate which strengths to build on and which challenges to address first.

NICWA specializes in culturally appropriate practice and program design. As an Indian organization, NICWA has developed a relational worldview (RWV) practice model that fits the Native way of acting in and viewing the world. This worldview focuses on finding the balance of the environment, infrastructure, mission and resources of a community, program or system. This leads to alignment of a tribe’s services with the community’s needs and resources. It encourages cross-system relationships and cooperation both within a tribe’s departments (such as health care, justice, social services and education) and allies outside the tribal community (such as county and state governments).

Using the RWV model, NICWA has designed an assessment process involving 50 questions and a group process to assess the larger balance issues in tribal child systems of care projects. NICWA uses this model to assess needs, identify strengths and gaps, and to plan site-specific training and TA designed to help the program thrive.

NICWA’s project strategy grows out of its 20 years of successful experience providing training and technical assistance to Indian tribes and organizations, 7 years of which have been focused on systems of care.


Our Technical Assistance Strategies

NICWA provides TA as its primary service in the area of community development, which is a process of helping communities build the capacity to respond to the needs of children and families with systems and services that positively impact those needs.

NICWA TA is a set of services that support people, organizations and tribal governments in developing and operating programs that thrive, provide effective services, and are sustainable.

To be effective, technical assistance should be based in theories about systems, change and organizational development and behavior.  Effective technical assistance is dependent upon the development of a trusting relationship between the TA provider and the program served as well as a common language to describe the strengths and needs of the organization. It is also dependent upon a comprehensive assessment of the organizational functions as they concern the service capacity of the organization. Services are provided by the people, organizations and tribes. NICWA focuses on and nurtures the capacity to provide those services. To guide its technical assistance, NICWA has developed a strengths-based theory of organizational wellness based on a Native American worldview. This model is also the core of a comprehensive self-assessment of TA needs.

The relational worldview (RWV), sometimes called the cyclical worldview, finds its roots in tribal cultures. It is intuitive, non-time oriented and fluid. Balance and harmony in relationships are the driving principles of this thought system, along with the interplay of spiritual forces. This worldview has historically been applied to individual well-being and is usually associated with the medicine wheel or four directions teachings of various tribes.

Applied to the individual, the relational worldview sees life in terms of harmonious relationships; health or wellness is achieved by maintaining balance among the many interrelating factors in one’s circle of life. Every event relates to all other events regardless of time, space or physical existence. Health exists only when all elements are in balance or harmony. The same concepts can be applied to the wellness of an organization.

Applied to organizations, the relational worldview helps the planner, manager, or technical assistant understand organizational development and related problems through the balances and imbalances in the organization’s relational world. Using this model, managers can see and manipulate complex (sometimes illogical) interrelationships. The well-being of the organization can be influenced by entering the world of the organization and manipulating the balance contextually, cognitively, emotionally, physically and/or spiritually.

Interventions may or may not be logically targeted to a particular problem or cause, but are focused on bringing the organization into harmony and balance. Nothing in an organization’s existence can change without all other things being changed as well. Hence, an effective TA provider is one who gains understanding of the complex interdependent nature of organizational dynamics and learns how to use resources, infrastructure, relationships and spiritual forces to promote harmony.

In this model, the TA provider has a responsibility to:

  • Expand the range of vision regarding strengths and needs through an organizational assessment process conducted with the program
  • Facilitate a strategic TA plan with measurable outcomes aimed at organizational wellness and achieving program goals
  • Contribute to the accomplishment of the TA goals with appropriate resources and expertise
  • Model trustworthiness
  • Communicate vision
  • Work to align systems, structure, and services with mission, vision, needs, and resources
  • Know the limits of their own capacity