Using Tribal Input for a Tribal Early Childhood Blueprint for Action

January 15, 2021
| Jeannie Hovland, Commissioner, ANA, Dr. Deborah Bergeron, ECD, & Craig Nolte, Federal Reserve Bank
Smiling Native American mother with her young children

“In Iroquois society, leaders are encouraged to remember seven generations in the past and consider seven generations in the future when making decisions that affect the people.” ― Wilma Mankiller, former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation

This past year, the Administration for Children and Families, the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) and the Office of Early Childhood Development, in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, led a series of meetings with tribal leaders with the goal of building a Blueprint for Action, which they released this week.  The Blueprint for Action is designed to better align policies and practices, related to federal early childhood programs, to promote a better future for tribal children. 

The tribal input meetings helped ACF identify ways to streamline and remove obstacles to collaboration between the agency’s early childhood program offices. The meeting participants worked to develop actionable plans and strategies in-line with tribal communities’ values, traditions, and priorities.

Tribes often struggle to work across various federal and state programs to build stronger early childhood systems to support their youngest and most promising citizens. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt more deeply in some communities than in others. Tribal communities are particularly vulnerable due to existing health disparities and, in many cases, poor resources and infrastructures. Effective coordination of early childhood programs at the tribal level has the potential to better address child, family, and community needs during this challenging time.

“It’s important we ensure that tribal communities have all that they need to support the seventh generation,” said ANA Commissioner Jeannie Hovland. “The Tribal Early Childhood workgroup was very impactful, allowing us to gather input from key stakeholders so we can better support Native communities. It starts with these conversations to better inform the work.”

One of the Federal Reserve System’s dual mandates is to promote maximum employment. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s community development efforts support a wide range of organizations to promote the economic resilience and mobility of lower-income Americans, including those in Indian Country.  The San Francisco Fed promotes emerging ideas through research, convenings, and outreach, including holding listening sessions with tribal leaders. Lifting up promising approaches, such as supporting better alignment of federal programs that support early childhood development and education, accelerates the innovation cycle to move more quickly toward lasting, replicable solutions at scale. 

As Mary Daly, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco said during a PBS interview Visit disclaimer page aired in May 2020, “An investment in human capital is one of the greatest investments we can make. It's the most durable. And that kind of investment is one we can definitely afford to make, and it's definitely one that will help all of us.”

The meeting participants prioritized the following six areas to focus our actions to improve coordination of tribal early childhood systems and outcomes:

  1. Respect tribal sovereignty and self-determination.

A fundamental principle is supporting tribes’ ability to exercise their self-determination to build tribally driven systems that incorporate language and culture. 

  1. Support program alignment and coordination.

There is a need for identifying and addressing resource gaps, streamlining administrative processes (e.g., eligibility and intake, reporting), and increasing opportunities for identifying shared data elements across programs. 

  1. Leverage funding and policy flexibilities.

Tribes expressed a need to more easily braid diverse funding streams across federal programs to improve collaboration and coordination of tribal early childhood programs, which could be facilitated by exercising policy flexibilities or existing funding authority.

  1. Prioritize training and technical assistance coordination.

There was strong interest in coordinating and leveraging existing technical assistance resources.  There was also a need for a comprehensive, one-stop, easy to access tribal early childhood online resource for all the technical assistance resources.

  1. Facilitate collaboration across tribes.

More work needs to be done to support partnership and peer sharing across tribes to allow them to effectively leverage early childhood resources, improve coordination of services, and build systems for collective impact in their own communities.

  1. Identify resources for capacity building.

There is a significant need for investments in workforce professional development, communications, information technology, internet access and facilities infrastructure, implementation of culturally informed evidence-based practices, planning, evaluation, data collection, collaborative research, and testing innovations. 

ACF also obtained input from a focus group of Native American parents and caregivers with young children to inform the report on how best to meet their needs for coordination of early childhood systems based on their values and priorities.

As Vivian Korthuis, CEO of the Association of Village Council Presidents says, “To provide the best environment for our future generations to grow up and thrive, we must determine the best way to coordinate and effectively deliver services. Tribes must have a visionary tribal leader who can implement the strategic plan.”


By Jeannie Hovland, Commissioner Administration for Native Americans and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Affairs, Deborah Bergeron, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood and Director, Office of Head Start, and Craig Nolte, Regional Manager for Community Development, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

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