Washington Native Communities Engaged for Juvenile Justice Reform – Cultural Enhancement Model Guides Work
A new, collaborative effort out of the University of Washington (UW) is bringing evidence-based juvenile justice reform practices to Native American communities. The University of Washington Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, UW Native American Law Center (NALC) and Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA) are heading the charge. “Two years ago, we started thinking about a project in tribal communities,” said Dr. Sarah Walker of the UW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “We knew we needed to collaborate with multiple tribes to really capture what works.” One of their primary aims is to find out how proven practices can be culturally adapted to reach some of the state’s most underserved populations.
This collaborative effort is using what’s referred to as the cultural enhancement model, which was developed by Dr. Sarah Walker and Eric Trupin, Ph.D, to engage community members to tailor proven practices to their cultural needs. A group of community members guides the rollout of a practice or program and, six months into implementation, adapts it as necessary. In Seattle, a course that guides parents through the juvenile justice system was rolled out into several non-English speaking communities. Feedback from Somali community members detailed that a DVD to accompany the course would be more impactful than a handout. The Somali-language DVD is now available to parents as soon as their child comes in contact with the juvenile justice system. Using this model empowers community members, embeds the practice in the community and addresses erroneous theorizing about what will work. Sites that employed the cultural enhancement model are reporting that practitioners feel more confident about how to successfully engage clients in treatment, and families have access to resources and materials that are culturally appropriate.
The UW and JRA collaboration will be launching a pilot project to test the effectiveness of different proven practices in tribal communities and will be using the cultural enhancement model in their implementation. As a preliminary step in the research process, representatives from 16 tribes in Washington state met in March for Tribal Gathering: Evidence-Based Programs in Tribal Communities, organized by Ron Whitener and his staff at NALC. Staff members from the UW, JRA and Evidence-Based Programs Quality Assurance Teams presented several best practices, and tribal representatives gave feedback on how effective the practices might be in their communities. Participants were encouraged to consider issues of sustainability and funding in their feedback, and to suggest ways the practices could be adapted for their needs.
The next step in the process will be working with the Indian Policy Advisory Committee—a group of Native and non-Native representatives that guide the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services on the needs and delivery of programs to Native populations—to look for four to six tribes to participate in the pilot project. While implementing proven juvenile justice reform practices, the UW and JRA team will follow the cultural enhancement model by continuing to engage tribal representatives and by reassessing the rolled-out practices to assure both cultural alignment and effectiveness.
“There is very little information on how the main juvenile justice-related, evidence-based practices work in tribal communities,” said Dr. Walker. She and her colleagues hope to inspire more work in tribal communities in Washington.