April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
Staff Reflections- Teresa Nord, Training and Technical Assistance Specialist, Tribal Youth Resource Center

As we’ve transitioned from a time of solitude and reflection of the winter season to the birth of spring, we remember. We remember our relatives that were forced from their homes and families and taken into residential boarding schools. Our grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers who as children were beaten and tortured and sometimes even murdered, for just simply being Native American. The mass graves that have recently become the top story on every social media platform and at the kitchen table in every Native home. The marches, candle light vigils and the wearing of orange to bring awareness are but a small contribution to the remembrance of the devastation and abuse of our now elder relatives. One could only hope that our collective community pain and trauma ended with the closure of boarding schools and the conclusion of mass removal therefore had also stopped. Sadly, an era of Indian child removal continued through the “adoption era” where Native youth were increasingly removed and placed with non-Native families, resulting in the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.

We see the residual impacts of colonization resonating through our communities and continued cyclical violence and trauma impacting our youth. We know American Indian children are victimized  at alarming rates, recent data indicating victimzation at a rate of 14.8 per 1,000.  These statistics are interwoven with violence against Indian women. In recent studies it is shown that 49-70% of cases, men who abuse their partners also abuse their children. These numbers are horrendous and the resultant removal of youth from their homes perpetuates the cycle of removal- “research and data from states tell us that American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children are disproportionately represented, or overrepresented in state foster care systems nationwide,” (NICWA, 2021). This is of great concern, since we also know that children placed in foster care are at risk for becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.

One might ponder on these known facts and wonder what can be done to help prevent or support those who are at risk or have experienced child abuse. As advocates for Native American youth we can pause to reflect on numerous questions that can spur us to action- questions such as How do we recognize when abuse is happening? Are we building trusting relationships with youth and their families in order to support them? Have we trained our staff in areas of prevention of child abuse and neglect? Do we have resources to provide families that may be at risk? If there is abuse occurring can we provide support to prevent out-of-home or out-of-community placement? With support from the Tribal Youth Resource Center and our partner the National Native Children’s Trauma Center we can provide referrals and resources to support your Tribal Youth Program in answering the questions above. Please know you are not alone in your venture to end child abuse in your tribal community. Let us be a support in ending child abuse and out-of-home and out-of-community placement together.

Free Training: Training to support tribal communities is freely available through the Tribal Youth Resource Center

• Tribal Youth Resource Center, a cooperative partner of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention offering free training and resources to support tribal youth prevention, intervention, and court-based programs.
Visit https://www.tribalyouth.org/contact-us/technical-assistance/

• The National Native Children’s Trauma Center, a Category 2 Treatment and Services Adaptation Center within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Visit https://www.nnctc.org/

Web-Resources and Fact Sheets:

• Identification of Child Abuse and Neglect- A collection of resources and information that can support the identification of child abuse and neglect. Resource links to topics such as neglect; physical abuse; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; training; with state and local examples. Visit https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/can/identifying/ Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

• Child abuse and Neglect, an online resource page with myths and facts about child abuse and neglect, definitions, and ways to respond to suspected abuse and/or neglect. Visit https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect.htm  HelpGuide International.

• Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences, Targeted Resources for Tribal Child Welfare, a fact sheet that provides information about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with links to resources and information for providers. Capacity Building Center for Tribes, (2018) Visit https://www.tribalinformationexchange.org/files/products/adversechildhoodexperiences.pdf

Free Code Development and Policy Publications:

• Responses to the Co-Occurrence of Child Maltreatment and Domestic Violence in Indian Country: Repairing the Harm and Protecting Children and Mothers, (2011) http://www.tribal-institute.org/download/OVWGreenbookReportHVS_TD_7-18.pdf

• Tribal Law and Policy Institute, Tribal Legal Code Resource: Crimes Against Children, A Guide for Drafting or Revising Tribal Laws on Crimes Against Children, (2022) https://www.home.tlpi.org/_files/ugd/3fb28d_3bef9fefffd14113a17f25a16a143307.pdf

This project was supported by Grant #15PJDP-21-GK-04048-MUMU awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.