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ACF Is Deepening Our Relationship with Tribes

Photo of Administration of Native Americans Commissioner Lillian SparksBy Lillian Sparks Robinson, Commissioner, Administration of Native Americans

Despite the fiscal constraints of 2013, the Administration for Children and Families remains committed to working with Tribes to foster the health and well-being of children and families. We are working toward deepening our partnership through several key initiatives.

The ACF Tribal Advisory Committee was launched last year. There are several other agencies in Health and Human Services that have a Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC). This new ACF-TAC will better inform ACF leadership on Tribal priorities regarding social service programs and provide an avenue for ongoing dialogue on substantive issues impacting children and families in Tribal communities. The Council is an enhancement to the Tribal consultation process, but does not take the place of consultation. Each HHS Region that has federally recognized Tribes has an ACF TAC member and an alternate, as well as several at-large members.

HHS and ACF remain committed to Tribal Consultation. The 16th Annual HHS Budget Consultation will be held in March 6-7 here in Washington, .DC. In addition ACF will hold a national Tribal Consultation session here on June 16. Last year we were able to connect Tribes remotely to our consultation and we hope to be able to do that again this year. Individual ACF programs, such as Head Start, will hold longer program-specific consultations as well in various parts of the country.

ACF values the information shared during consultation, and several improvements, such as the TAC, and the Tribal Early Learning Initiative have been a result of recommendation by Tribal leaders. The purposes of 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

This week, ACF will be conducting an outreach call for the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Initiative. This initiative will expand access to high quality early childhood experiences for more low-income children. A Tribal specific webinar is scheduled for Feb. 11 at 1 p.m. The money for this initiative is for this fiscal year, so ACF is interested in quickly obtaining stakeholder input in order to inform the roll out of this initiative.

Furthermore, ACF has committed to biennial Tribal grantee meetings, where we connect across ACF programs and address issues that take into account that families served in TANF are families that are accessing LIHEAP and may be families working with the child welfare or child support programs.

This year’s conference coincides with the 50th anniversary of the “War on Poverty” and we know we still have a long way to go to alleviate the impact of poverty in our Tribal Nations. Our meeting will identify how we can best maximize the ability to address families in a holistic manner while streamlining paperwork and red-tape makes sense on both sides. We are looking forward to hosting this meeting, Honoring Our Commitments to Native Families Today and Tomorrow, this June.

Lillian Sparks Robinson, a Lakota woman of the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes, is the commissioner of the Administration of Native Americans.  Sparks Robinson was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the commissioner on March 3, 2010, and was sworn in on March 5, 2010.  She has devoted her career to supporting the educational pursuits of Native American students, protecting the rights of indigenous people, and empowering tribal communities.

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