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‘Positive’ education program for parenting picks up $700,000

Terry Cross (Seneca) is the senior advisor and founder at NICWA. (Courtesy NICWA)

A unique curriculum designed to support parenting among Native peoples has received a new funding boost.

The “Positive Indian Parenting” program recently secured $700,000 in grant money from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for American Indian and Alaska Native parents.

The funds will be distributed over three years to support a pilot evaluation study on PIP – which was developed by the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

The new grant will help stakeholders to understand the impact the PIP curriculum has toward the goals of child and adult wellbeing. “… [W]ith an ultimate goal to establish PIP as an evidence-based practice under the Family First Prevention Services Act.”

The Family First legislation of 2018 overhauled federal child welfare financing.

The support comes on the heels of a $100,000 grant from DDCF to NICWA for planning and design of the pilot study. The pilot study is meant as the next step toward a future national-level study.

Strong reputation

NICWA said in a statement that PIP has been used across Indian Country and First Nations in Canada for more than 30 years. It is based on a broad review of literature on traditional Native parenting practices, consultation with cultural experts, and Native community oral traditions about child rearing and child development.

In addition, NICWA said thousands of parents and caregivers have been trained using PIP, and it has a strong reputation among communities, practitioners and policymakers as a “culturally specific curriculum to improve the wellbeing of Native children and families.”

One of NICWA’s key goals with the curriculum is to prevent childhood abuse and neglect. “… [A]nd therefore to prevent the placement of Native children in foster care.”

For the next three years, the pilot study will be conducted along with the nonprofit Child Trends, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe of Washington State, Seattle’s Casey Family Programs and DDCF.

“The traditional teachings included in PIP provided strengths to Native families for centuries, but they were nearly lost before being compiled into this curriculum,” Terry Cross (Seneca) said.

Cross is a curriculum author and the senior advisor and founder at NICWA.

“While it has been recognized as a cultural best practice for decades, I’m pleased that the effectiveness of our work can now be tested,” he said.

Other Native leaders also reacted positively to the new funding.

“Restorative parenting practices build strength in our communities and our children. With teachings from our Elders, in conjunction with the PIP curriculum, we are resilient and thriving families using our traditions and building our future generations,” Debbie Hassler, vice chair of the Cowlitz Tribal Council, said in a statement.

Deana Around Him (Cherokee Nation) said there is not a lot of curriculum designed for Native peoples that has been evaluated to meet evidence criteria for federal funding.

She is a senior research scientist at Child Trends and the co-principal investigator for the PIP pilot study.

“This study is important because the new data will allow us to build upon decades of practice-based evidence and trust that Native communities have built for PIP,” Around Him said in a statement. “By expanding the evidence base for PIP, we hope to improve access to new sources of funding and the culturally relevant parenting skills at the core of the curriculum.”

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at