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AFI Dear Colleague Letter Native American Youth Empowerment

Published: December 14, 2015
Assets for Independence (AFI)
Guidance, Policies, Procedures, Dear Colleague Notices

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families
Office of Community Services
370 L'Enfant Promenade, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20447

RE: Native Youth Empowerment
November 24, 2015

Dear Colleague,

In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, and in celebration of the next generation of tribal leaders, we, in the Office of Community Services (OCS), are writing today to ask for your partnership in helping create more opportunities for Native youth engagement, empowerment, education and employment.

As a recent White House Report notes, Native youth have a special role as citizens of tribal nations in defining the future of this country, and also in leading Native cultures, traditions, and governments into the next century. However, they experience significant institutional and intergenerational challenges in reaching their potential. Native children are far more likely than their non-Native peers to grow up in poverty, to suffer from severe health problems, and to face obstacles to educational opportunity. These conditions are systemic and severe, and must be addressed through increased resources and strategic action.

Obama Administration Commitments
In July 2015, the President and Mrs. Obama hosted the first ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering with more than 1,000 young leaders from 230 tribes.  Those in attendance are also a part of the National Native Youth Network, which aims to create a platform to integrate Native youth voices into the national dialogue.   

In conjunction with the Youth Gathering, the Administration made specific commitments in the following areas: 

  • Preparing Native youth for higher education;
  • Creating safe and supportive Native communities; and
  • Expanding economic opportunities. 

As background, it was in December 2014 that President Obama launched the Generation Indigenous Initiative.   Through new investments and increased engagement, this initiative takes a comprehensive, culturally-appropriate approach to ensure all young Native people can reach their full potential. 

What you can do
You can take several important steps to help foster a bright future for Native youth:

Assets for Independence
The Assets for Independence (AFI) program provides five-year grants to nonprofit organizations and government agencies to develop and implement asset-building initiatives that empower low-income individuals and their families to become economically self-sufficient and enabled to acquire a lasting asset.  AFI grantees assist participants with establishing special-purpose, matched savings accounts called Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) to save earned income.  Every dollar of earned income that a participant deposits into an AFI IDA is matched by the AFI project.  AFI participants use their IDA savings and matching funds for one of three allowable asset purchases:  a first home, post-secondary education/training or to start or expand a small business.   Tribal governments that apply jointly with 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations are eligible for AFI grants.  In FY 2015, AFI awards to tribal communities totaled $1,054,000.  To find out more about the AFI program, please visit:  www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/programs/afi.

Let’s heed the President’s words from a recent visit to Choctaw Nation:

“We’ve got a special obligation to make sure that tribal youth have every opportunity to achieve their potential not just for the benefit of themselves and their communities, but for our entire nation.”


Jeannie L. Chaffin                                                                                Lynda Perez
Director                                                                                                Director, Division of Community
Office of Community Services                                                              Demonstration Programs
                                                                                                            Office of Community Services



Last Reviewed: September 2, 2016