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White Earth Nation Makes Great Progress in Building Stronger Early Childhood Systems

By Moushumi Beltangady, Senior Policy Analyst, Early Childhood Development

In December 2012, Linda Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary and Inter-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development, wrote about the launch of the Tribal Early Learning Initiative (TELI), a partnership between ACF and four American Indian tribes. The purposes of the TELI are to:

  • Support tribes to fully and effectively coordinate tribal early learning and development programs to meet the needs of communities, children, and families
  • Create and support seamless quality early childhood systems across programs serving young children and families
  • Raise the quality of services to children and families across the prenatal to age 5 continuum

White Earth Nation SealIn the year since we began the TELI, we have seen the participating tribes make great strides in strengthening collaboration across Head Start/Early Head Start, Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), and Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (Tribal MIECHV) programs. In January, ACF will bring the four TELI tribes together to reflect on their efforts to date and plan for the future.

The White Earth Band of Chippewa, located in northwestern Minnesota, has leveraged the TELI opportunity to great success. Last year, White Earth Nation issued a tribal mandate that programs across the reservation work together to break down the silos of individual programs and begin working together in a true collaborative spirit for the benefit of the people. Tribal agencies have enthusiastically responded and created WE-CARE (White Earth Coordination, Assessment, Resources, Education).

WE-CARE is a family-centered approach to providing coordinated and meaningful services for families working with White Earth Nation agencies. The goals of WE-CARE are to:

  • Create a functional model of case management
  • Increase services, referrals, and resources
  • Decrease duplication
  • Increase communication and coordination

The WE-CARE team (made up of representatives from several tribal programs including Home Health/Tribal MIECHV, Child Care, Head Start, Indian Child Welfare, Mental Health, Housing and Human Resources) has been working to develop policies and procedures for the case management model. A Universal Intake Form and Confidentiality Statement Form have already been developed and White Earth has invested in Rite Track, a software system that will be used to manage and share information among White Earth programs. Rite Track includes modules customized to the needs of each program and will allow staff to work more efficiently by streamlining operations. 

Funds from TELI (as well as Tribal MIECHV) were instrumental in purchasing and supporting the Rite Track system and setting a foundation for the WE-CARE effort. The White Earth TELI partners (Home Health/Tribal MIECHV, Child Care, and Head Start) have been leading the way to show how programs on the White Earth Reservation can work together.  White Earth’s work has much to teach other communities as well!

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