Capacity Building Center for Tribes Prevention Brief


Prevention-centered practices are rooted in the belief that a child’s connection to their family and tribal communities keeps the community whole. Honoring our stories, Indigenous ways of knowing, and belief systems when developing prevention practices can help programs increase protective factors, strengthen family systems, and create connections for children and families. Tribal child welfare programs across Indian Country have unique governments, governing documents, and cultural beliefs.

The 2023 challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) at the United States Supreme Court intensified conversations about how to ensure that tribal children remain with their families or within their communities. In response to these discussions, the Capacity Building Center for Tribes (Center) has created the following brief on family-strengthening prevention practices and definitions.

Culture of Prevention

Prevention can take many forms at the community and individual levels and is embedded in the fabric of tribal child welfare family preservation. The focus of prevention includes limiting risk, harm reduction, and increasing protective factors to empower families with the ability to navigate challenges with unity and strength. Prevention in tribal child welfare can occur in more than one way and can look differently from tribe to tribe.

Many prevention services in this brief focus on preventing families’ involvement in the child welfare system (or preventing the child’s removal from their home) by offering services focused on harm reduction or minimizing risk factors within the family. This includes behavioral health, mental health, substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, financial aid, and housing supports. Other efforts include collaboration and connections with community programs for integrated service delivery to families in need of strengthening.

A prevention-focused culture reduces removal rates by strengthening and promoting wellness within the family. Activities that promote thriving Native families are:

  • proactive (e.g., taking place before system involvement),
  • strengths-based, and
  • culturally relevant.

At the systems and community levels, this may include community outreach and education. For individual families, this includes parenting education and classes on prevention of child abuse/maltreatment and SUD.


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