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The Portland-based nonprofit received $700,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Portland nonprofit National Indian Child Welfare Association received $700,000 in grant funding to study the effectiveness of its Positive Indian Parenting program from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the foundation announced Tuesday.NICWA

The Positive Indian Parenting program is a culturally specific parenting curriculum to prevent child maltreatment, said NICWA Executive Director Sarah Kastelic.

Through federal policy, Native people have been forced from their homelands, and children were separated from their families, Kastelic said.

"There's been a lot of damage done to families, and especially when children are separated from their parents, they don't have the opportunity to learn our traditional parenting ways and how we look at child development and how we nurture children," she said.

Positive Indian Parenting can reconnect Native parents to those traditional practices. "It really does draw on the practices and traditional strengths of American Indian Alaskan Native parenting, and it invites participants to reclaim that heritage," Kastelic said.

NICWA had sought grant funding to study the curriculum for years without interest, Kastelic said.

Philanthropic funding is rarely given to organizations that specifically serve indigenous people; according to nonprofit First Nations Development Institute, Native-led groups receive only 0.23% of philanthropic funding, though native people make up around 2% of the U.S. population.

But the Positive Indian Parenting grant is one of seven that the DDCF issued to organizations that serve Native communities around the United States. "This is our opportunity to really highlight the solutions that already exist around the country in indigenous communities," said Lola Adedokun, DDCF's program director for child well-being.

The Positive Indian Parenting curriculum uses a "train the trainer" model, teaching people from different communities, Kastelic said. This method uses general cultural knowledge that is similar across the over 500 tribes in the United States but allows those trainers to then tailor it to their specific community.

The DDCF grant will be dispersed over three years, Kastelic said, funding a pilot study of 60 families; half will be randomly selected to receive training, and half will stay on the waitlist as a control group.

The study will measure the impacts of the curriculum using metrics like cultural connectedness, parental stress and child neglect. NICWA had previously received a smaller grant to prepare for the evaluation.

Positive Indian Parenting is designed to be delivered in group settings or at individual homes, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program is restructuring to be delivered remotely, though it will go back to in-person once they are able.

After this pilot study is completed, Kastelic said NICWA hopes to create a larger, country-wide study.

The studies will open Positive Indian Parenting programs to future federal funding, which often requires evidence of effectiveness, Kastelic said.

"With the evidence base that we're building first with this study," Kastelic said, "that means that tribes will be able to use other funding sources to be able to develop this program to bring it to their own community and to implement it widely.


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