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Our Research Expertise

Research has been a key part of NICWA’s work since the organization was founded. The research division is housed within the program department of NICWA. The goal of the division is that research should be in service to communities and to our members. Tribal communities increasingly are looking for data to help guide their services and to help secure funding for child welfare and mental health programs. The NICWA research division strives to do research in partnership with communities in ways that are sensitive to historical traumas and are respectful of community needs, values, cultures, and traditions.

Research at NICWA entails gathering the best available knowledge about current developments in child welfare, children’s mental health, and juvenile justice. We also consult with organizations, federal agencies, universities, and others on research or data that already is available to help answer questions in these key content areas. NICWA staff are experienced in a wide range of research methods, including community-based participatory research designs, case studies, survey research, quasi-experimental designs, and ethnographic approaches.

NICWA is well suited to conduct quantitative and qualitative research and has strong familiarity with the fields of community-based participatory research, public health, preventive health, mental health and substance abuse prevention, juvenile justice, federal Indian policy, tribal-state relations, and tribal governmental policy. NICWA has conducted more than 25 culturally specific research and evaluation projects ranging in size up to $3 million with funding from both federal and foundation grants and contracts. NICWA has extensive experience not only conducting research in urban and reservation tribal communities, but in assisting other organizations in conducting culturally competent research, including obtaining tribal Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval and tribal governmental research clearances.

In our research projects, communities are treated as full partners in all that we do. We work with communities to help them decide what topics they would like to get more information about, how to get that information, and what to do with it to improve services and outcomes for youth and families. We support communities in keeping sensitive data confidential, as well as determining how they can use data they already have to improve their services. At NICWA, we value the input of Native youth and invite them to participate as collaborators in our research.

The research division is growing, and has a bright future as an integral part of NICWA. Our staff include: research manager Crys O’Grady, JD (Cherokee descent); research assistant Alexis Contreras, BS (Grand Ronde); director of research Puneet Sahota, MD, PhD; executive director Sarah Kastelic, PhD (Alutiiq); and founder and senior advisor Terry Cross, PhD, MSW, ACSW, LCSW (Seneca). Other NICWA staff join our research team as needed and provide assistance in their particular areas of expertise, including policy research, child welfare, and community outreach. We welcome inquiries from potential research partners and communities looking for assistance with program evaluation or data collection. For more information, please contact Puneet Sahota at psahota@nicwa.org.