January 10, 2024

Bridging Systems for Kinship Families Tribal Program Application


The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) is a proud partner of the Grandfamilies & Kinship Support Network (Network). The Network is the nation’s first federally funded technical assistance center for grandparents and other kin/relative caregivers and the children they raise. Together, we are thrilled to roll out a unique opportunity for one tribe or tribal organization to work with the nation’s leading experts on relative caregiver/kinship families, all free of charge. NICWA will provide in-depth support to you on goals you and your tribal leaders and community self-identify to help you effectively collaborate internally across tribal departments and/or externally with state or county government systems and/or nonprofit service providers to better serve all kinship/relative caregiving families, whether child welfare involved or not. Collaborating effectively will help address service barriers and leverage your resources to maximize support for these families.

This project requires a two-year commitment from a lead tribal agency, as well as identified internal or external partner departments, programs, or agencies working in other areas impacting relative caregivers/kin. The project team for this cross-system work will consist of a minimum of two tribal government departments, or the lead tribe and at least one other governmental agency or department or Native community-based nonprofit with jurisdiction-wide impact. The team also is required to have two individuals with lived relative/kinship caregiving experience. Work will begin by discussing your goals and co-developing an action plan for cross-system collaboration with NICWA and the Network’s partners and subject matter experts.

A selected tribal site will benefit from the expertise of NICWA; the Network and its parent organization, Generations United; and the Network’s other partner agencies – Child Trends, the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging, USAging, and ZERO TO THREE. For example, if you identify it as a goal, NICWA can help you build your capacity to collaborate with a state or county agency. The Network also includes a cadre of subject matter experts to support and collaborate with you.

Taking a cross-systems approach and working with your self-identified goals, NICWA and the Network’s team will help the selected tribe’s efforts to:

  • Create high-impact partnerships across systems.
  • Develop and implement and/or optimize
    • A tribal kinship navigator program; or
    • Tribal relative care provider outreach services; or
    • Native American Caregiver Support Program (NASCP); or
    • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) supports for relative care providers; or
    • Tribal/state child welfare system collaboration regarding kinship/relative care/grandfamily services.
  • Identify culturally specific or adapted innovative/emerging evidence-based/evidence-informed practices and assist with integrating the practice in the tribal setting.
  • Implement culturally based Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practices to support caregivers who provide care for relatives with diverse cultural or gender identities.
  • Amplify the voices of those with lived experience to shape programs, services, and systems.

Throughout the project, Child Trends will assess and evaluate the project. In year three, NICWA and Network staff, with your input and approval, will document the work we have done together as part of this initiative and elevate it nationally so that others can replicate your work. You will receive national recognition as a tribal organization that works together to value and support grandparents and other relative caregivers who raise children when parents cannot.

Criteria to Qualify:

  1. The lead applicant must be a tribe, urban Indian center serving the local tribal community, or reservation tribal services program. For tribal agencies, you must be focused on an area or areas in our Network umbrella:
    • Aging
    • Child Welfare
    • Disability
    • Education
    • Housing
    • Nutrition
    • Medicaid/Medicare
    • TANF
  1. The project team must be committed to working across systems and include at a minimum: two tribal government agencies and two experts with lived experience. If working closely with a neighboring state agency, it would be ideal for them to be invited to be part of the project team.

Commitments from NICWA and the Network:

  • Provide in-depth, ongoing assistance and assessment of project free of charge from the nation’s leading kinship/relative caregiving experts.
  • Designate a NICWA lead to serve as a contact for the work.
  • Participate in monthly meetings and serve as a resource between meetings.
  • Provide on-site technical assistance up to two times per year, as coordinated with your schedules.
  • Provide compensation to lived experts for their expertise.

Expectations for Your Team:

  • Commit to work for two years (May 2024 through May 2026) with NICWA and the Network to co-develop and implement an action plan to work collaboratively to better serve relative/kinship families inside and outside of child welfare system involvement.
  • Designate a lead staff member and one alternate contact staff member from each agency to work on this effort. At least one staff member from each agency must have decision-making authority.
  • Ensure that staff participate in monthly meetings and act on identified tasks in preparation for each meeting.
  • Meaningfully engage lived experts in meetings and ongoing work.
  • Commit to co-create and participate in an assessment of the project in collaboration with NICWA and Child Trends.

Application Launch, Process, and Timeline

NICWA and the Network have a two-step process in selecting the tribe.

  • January 10, 2024: Application period opens.
  • March 18, 2024, 11:59 PM PT: Application period closes.
  • April 22, 2024-April 26, 2024: NICWA staff will reach out to lead tribal agencies for 60-minute virtual interviews.
  • May 2024: NICWA will notify applicants of decisions.

Interested applicants are encouraged to reach out to NICWA at dallas@nicwa.org or to the Network at kcraggett@gu.org with any questions.

The Network is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $9,950,000 with 95 percentage funded by ACL/HHS and $523,684 and 5 percentage funded by non-government sources. The contents are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

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