Native American Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care
Location(s): United States
A major concern in Native American (Indian) communities is the lack of access to appropriate mental and physical health and other transitional support programs and services for Native American youth who are "aging out" of the foster care setting. This gap is due in part to a) leaders in the Indian communities having suspicion and fear of public health and scientific efforts, thereby often avoiding participating in research or accessing needed public health services; and b) non-Indian social service agencies' resistance to acknowledging and understanding the cultural differences and unique services needed for Indian youth and their families. The ultimate goal of this project is to gather and disseminate information that will encourage the Indian and non-Indian communities and service agencies to work together to develop strategies to reduce the mental and physical health burden often experienced by Indian youth transitioning out of foster care. Through focus group data collection methods with Native American community leaders, healthcare and service providers, and foster care youth, the specific aims of this project include the following: 1) to collect information about the few programs in California that have responded programmatically to the concern about Native American youth aging out of the foster care system, and to identify barriers to care that have not been addressed by current or previous programmatic efforts; 2) to increase the visibility of and urgency concerning the needs of foster youth among the Indian community and non-Indian social services agencies community; 3) to convene tribes and other organizations that can make a difference to discuss the associated problems and "best practices" and gaps that have been identified through this project. These efforts will serve to enhance relations between the Native American community and both Indian and non-Indian healthcare and service providers, as well as provide key evidence that should support and encourage further scientific explorations among the Native American community. Further, it is expected that the findings from this formative research and the collaborations and relations resulting from this project will lead to the development and implementation of culturally appropriate services, programs and policy advocacy strategies at the county and state levels that will address the needs of native American foster children.