Ramah trying to begin in-home services in child care

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla., April 17, 2014

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As a way to address the needs and well-being of children in family services, Ramah Navajo Social Services is working with the National Indian Child Welfare Association to develop a new model that will help work with families, children and the local community.

Ashley Harding, NICWA community development specialist, said the model they are trying to implement is from the National Recourse Center for In-Home Services and is called tribal in-home services.

Tribal in-home services means that staff members at Ramah want to help families in home rather than sending them to outside resources.

"It's charged in working with tribal communities to ensure that children are kept safe at home," Harding said. "In addition to ensuring that tribal communities are delivering culturally appropriate ways of working with their families as opposed to incorporating a Westernized model that doesn't really work with tribal communities."

Ramah Navajo Social Services Director Loretta Martinez said she wants to implement this model because it will "help establish security, stability and prevalence of children in the community and part of that would include teachings of the Navajo culture and language in the home."

Martinez said they want to try and do that by using the resources available within the Ramah community rather than going outside to get help.

"Engaging all these different entities that are vital to making sure that this community is going to succeed and that the entire community is responsible to keeping their children safe," Harding added.

Martinez said that her program is relying on outside placements and treatment for children in social service but she wants to be able to provide for the children in her community.

"As long as the child is safe in the home we're going to keep them in the home," Martinez added.

She said she wants to be able to provide the children with placements within the community or with family because she believes "that it's really important that we retain our culture, language and teaching within the home. Use the resources that we have in the home that we don't utilize. It starts from the home. We tried everything else and it didn't work, let's go back home."

Harding said NICWA started its assessment in Ramah in April of 2013. Harding went to Ramah and talked with the staff and director.

"That's when we determine whether or not it's (the model) going to be a good fit for the community," Harding added.

Harding said they discovered that the staff of Ramah Social Services wants to focus on family prevention and preservation.

"They want to empower the community to take care of their children," Harding said.

The first step of the process for the model was identifying the needs of the staff and the second is engaging stakeholders, behavioral health, early Head Start, education, police department, courts – engaging all of these different entities to make sure they have an understanding that this process is starting, Harding said.

The third part is engaging the community and currently, Martinez and Harding are working on that. Harding said that they are attending chapter meetings so they can get some insight on how the community would like the model to be developed.

After they get all the input from the community Harding said the model will move toward policy and procedures to make sure the model is in line with the requirements of the National Resource Center as well as the Navajo Nation Children's Code.

"As we move forward we are really assisting in what's taking place but it will be up to the community when it will be implemented," Harding said. "The model is always going to be changing as new programs come about. It's just continues to grow."

"I think it's a great idea," said Susan Stat, from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe from Auburn, Wash., adding that as a  worker of the field of tribal child welfare she understands that it takes more than just the caseworkers to help a child. "We want to bring healing. We want to fix the emotional trauma and historical trauma."

For more information on the next community planning meeting contact the Ramah Navajo Social Services.

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