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American Indian and Alaska Native Initiatives

As part of its longstanding commitment to serving the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native communities, OVC has established two major Indian Country initiatives: the Victim Assistance in Indian Country (VAIC) Discretionary Grant Program (recently renamed the Tribal Victim Assistance (TVA) Discretionary Grant Program), which began in 1989, and the Children's Justice Act (CJA) Partnerships for Indian Communities Discretionary Grant Program, which began in 1990. TVA has stimulated the growth of a responsive victim assistance network in Indian Country communities. TVA programs provide direct victim services such as crisis intervention, emergency services, 24-hour crisis hotlines, mental health counseling, hiring of victim advocates and recruitment of volunteers, emergency transportation of victims, court advocacy and accompaniment, and bilingual counseling services. CJA helps tribal communities improve the investigation, prosecution, and overall handling of child abuse cases—particularly cases of child sexual abuse—in a manner that increases support for, and lessens additional trauma to, the victim. To continue the growth of victim-focused programs in Indian Country, OVC funds several initiatives that explore new ways to support victims and victim service providers. Because these initiatives seek to provide culturally appropriate services for victims in Indian Country, each in some fashion supports the others.

Tribal Victim Assistance Program

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2003, OVC decided to increase funding for the Victim Assistance in Indian Country (VAIC) Discretionary Grant Program to $2.5 million, rename the program the Tribal Victim Assistance (TVA) Discretionary Grant Program, and invite all federally recognized tribes in the United States to participate in it. Under VAIC, only tribes under federal criminal jurisdiction were eligible to apply. However, under TVA, OVC intends to award approximately $500,000 in support of projects that provide direct services to victims at up to eight tribes not under federal criminal jurisdiction. These projects include court accompaniment, advocacy, compensation assistance, emergency funds, counseling, crisis intervention, and training for law enforcement. The programs address the needs of unserved and underserved victims, particularly those victimized by child abuse, homicide, elder abuse, gang violence, and drunk driving. OVC is committed to providing TVA grantees with ongoing training and technical assistance support such as leadership programs, technical assistance to support the long-term sustainability of programs, and mentoring between tribes. For more details, visit the TVA Training and Technical Assistance Project Web site.

Children's Justice Act Partnerships for Indian Communities

The Children's Justice Act (CJA) Program supports demonstration projects that help American Indian and Alaska Native communities develop, establish, and operate programs that improve the investigation, prosecution, and overall handling of child abuse cases, especially cases of child sexual abuse. The funding supports the development and implementation of both comprehensive child abuse programs and child-sensitive policies and procedures for addressing child abuse cases in the tribe's criminal justice and child protection systems. The cases are to be handled in a manner that increases support for, and lessens additional trauma to, child abuse victims. The program's ultimate goal is to improve the capacity of existing tribal systems to handle serious child abuse cases by developing specialized services and procedures that address the unique needs of American Indian and Alaska Native child abuse victims.

Training and Technical Assistance for Children's Justice Act Grantees

Since 1989, OVC has provided funding through the Children's Justice Act (CJA) Partnerships for the Indian Communities Discretionary Grant Program. Child abuse cases on Indian reservations may be investigated by tribal police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, state and local authorities, or Bureau of Indian Affairs criminal investigators, and cases may be prosecuted in federal, state, or tribal courts. Formal protocols may not exist among these agencies, or they may be fragmented or fail to incorporate a multidisciplinary approach for responding to the abuse. Due to these variations in resources and services, training and technical assistance support is vital for CJA projects to achieve their goals and objectives. The training and technical assistance program provides comprehensive skill-building training and technical assistance to Indian tribes and nonprofit organizations that receive funding through the CJA Discretionary Grant Program. CJA provides funding directly to Indian tribes and tribal agencies to develop, establish, and operate projects that improve the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases. OVC seeks to ensure that all tribal programs receive training and technical assistance that will help them successfully implement CJA programs. For more information, visit www.tribal-institute.org.

VOCA-TVA Working Group (formerly VOCA-VAIC Working Group)

Crime is a serious problem in Indian Country; victim services in Indian Country are inadequate, and victim assistance providers face unique challenges. In the past, tribal victim assistance programs and state Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) programs have faced challenges in their efforts to provide and fund services for tribes. Complaints from tribes have focused on VOCA funding decisions and criteria, compensation processes, and collaboration. Tribes have stated that American Indian and Alaska Native victims do not receive appropriate amounts of compensation from state programs and do not receive proportionate amounts of VOCA funding for their victim assistance programs. Conversely, states have had problems obtaining the appropriate paperwork from tribes and adapting to the complexities of changing tribal governments. Therefore, a clear need exists for state VOCA administrators and Tribal Victim Assistance (TVA) Discretionary Grant Program directors to collaborate and develop strategies that increase state VOCA funding of tribal programs and tribal compliance with state funding requirements.

OVC has provided funding to support continuing collaboration between American Indian and Alaska Native grantees and state VOCA victim assistance grantees through a series of working group meetings. Meeting attendees include state VOCA administrators and TVA program managers. The working group will offer guidance and information to OVC about (1) identifying American Indian and Alaska Native consultants for the training and technical assistance database; (2) identifying American Indian and Alaska Native organizations with the capacity to deliver training and technical assistance in Indian Country; (3) continuing discussions from earlier meetings about increasing American Indian representation on decisionmaking boards, increasing the availability of compensation to American Indian and Alaska Native victims, and improving the relationship between VOCA and American Indian and Alaska Native programs; (4) replicating the success of state VOCA and TVA programs that have collaborated and improved communication and funding; and (5) increasing TVA's ability to sustain victim services beyond federal funding.

American Indian/Alaska Native Victim Assistance Academy

OVC recognized the need to develop an inclusive, skills-based, and culturally sensitive victim assistance academy for service providers, allied professionals, law enforcement, and other professionals who provide assistance for victims in Indian Country. To serve the educational and professional needs of victim service providers in Indian Country, OVC approved a multiyear project for an American Indian/Alaska Native Victim Assistance Academy to be researched, designed, and pilot tested.

Indian Nations Conference

Since 1988, OVC has sponsored eight national conferences for tribal, state, and federal professionals who work on behalf of victims in Indian Country. The conferences have provided victim service providers, victim advocates, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, judicial personnel, social service personnel, and health and mental health professionals with training on promising practices for establishing effective victim assistance services. In addition, the conferences have presented models for coordinating tribal, federal, state, and local resources in response to victims in Indian Country. In Fiscal Year 2003, OVC competitively awarded funds to support the planning and implementation of the ninth National Indian Nations Conference, scheduled for December 2004. This conference will foster an interdisciplinary strategy that combines legal, law enforcement, and victim assistance approaches to responding to American Indian victimization; present new and established models and promising practices for assisting victims; and train professionals who investigate, prosecute, and manage child abuse cases, thus enhancing the skills of victim service providers and other allied professionals. The goal of the conference is to improve how multidisciplinary professionals respond to the rights and needs of American Indian and Alaska Native victims and to improve the handling of cases of family violence and child abuse. For more information, visit www.tribal-institute.org.

Tribal Victim Assistance Evaluation and Assessment

In Fiscal Year 2003, OVC provided funds for the National Institute of Justice to initiate a process evaluation. The first stage of this project, a preevaluation assessment, entailed comprehensive onsite interviews at four Indian Country sites: the Choctaw Nation, the Lummi Nation, the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point, and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewas. If a full evaluation is viable, evaluators will identify the gaps in services at specific sites, determine which services are furnished to victims throughout Indian Country, analyze the impact of the services provided, survey the permanency and accessibility of programs, and develop recommendations for improving services.

MADD American Indian Outreach

According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System—a Government census of all fatal U.S. automobile crashes—more than 70 percent of all traffic-related fatalities in American Indian communities involve the use of alcohol. Consequently, OVC funded the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Native American Awareness Campaign to establish victim service programs that support American Indian victims and survivors of drunk-driving accidents. The MADD campaign highlights the victim services available to American Indians and seeks to develop culturally sensitive materials that outline those services as well as important tips for coping with victimization. Funding was also used to create the "Heritage Kit," which will be distributed to the American Indian community. The kit includes "Path of Hope," a 15-minute video that shows the effects of victimization through firsthand accounts from family members of drunk-driving victims. Individuals tell how the accidents happened, describe their devastating impact, and explain how MADD provided help that was sensitive to American Indian beliefs and culture. The kit also features awareness posters and brochures. For more details, visit the MADD Web site.

New Mexico Pueblos Children's Code Project

Child abuse and neglect is a major concern among New Mexico's pueblos and tribes, and many tribes lack adequate, culturally relevant codes for addressing this problem. OVC's Training and Technical Assistance Center is supporting a group of consultants who are helping the pueblos of Acoma, Zuni, San Felipe, Santa Ana, and Taos develop or strengthen tribal codes so they properly address the policies and procedures for handling child abuse and neglect cases. Without these policies and procedures, there is little guidance for social workers, law enforcement officials, and treatment providers in how to protect child victims. This initiative, which will take place under the auspices of the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department, entails a review of existing children's codes, site visits, and managing input from tribal leaders and judges. The project goals are to develop, implement, and enforce more comprehensive children's codes in Indian Country; guide child welfare and protection processes; and ensure that children's needs are adequately and efficiently met by their pueblo or tribe.

District-Specific Training Conferences in Indian Country

To continue advancing Indian Country victim initiatives, OVC has provided speakers, logistical support, and attendee scholarships for the district-specific training conferences in Indian Country (the conferences are sponsored by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices). For Fiscal Year 2004, conferences are scheduled in the following districts: Nevada; Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin; Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah; Alaska; Wyoming; South Dakota, Nebraska, and North Dakota; and Kansas and Oklahoma. Conference attendees will include native and nonnative service providers, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, tribal prosecutors, tribal elders, and tribal victim advocates. Training topics will include domestic violence, elder abuse, child abuse, forensic interviews, gang violence, crisis intervention, and victims' rights. Attendees will use the training to improve their skills, learn about victim resources, and learn ways to improve collaboration among tribal, state, and federal agencies involved with victims. The conferences offer opportunities for invaluable links between members of various American Indian tribes and federal agencies and, as a result, are a critical element in providing direct services and meeting the needs of underserved victims in Indian Country. For more information, visit the conference information page on the OVC Web site.

Sexual Assault Training in Indian Country

American Indian women suffer a high rate of sexual assault. According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics study on crime in Indian Country, American Indians have a higher rate of rape and sexual assault than any other demographic group studied. Advocates working with sexual assault victims in Indian Country do not have access to evidence-based training that incorporates key elements of traditional culture along with the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)/Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) model of responding to victims. In 1997, OVC funded a grant called Building Skills for Sexual Assault Responders under which the Sexual Assault Advocate/Counselor Training curriculum was developed. Although the curriculum has not been finalized, it has been used to provide training in a number of jurisdictions. The Sexual Assault Training in Indian Country project will take the Sexual Assault Advocate/Counselor Training Program being piloted by the Sexual Assault Resource Service and adapt it for training sexual assault victim advocates and other first responders in American Indian communities. This evidence-based curriculum includes key information on the SANE/SART model and the important role that advocates play as part of a SART. The curriculum will be modified to include traditional cultural and spiritual elements based on input from American Indian advocates, pilot tested in several Indian communities, and revised based on feedback.

Blackfeet TRIAD Program

Tribal victim service programs report that elder abuse is on the rise but continues to be underreported, particularly in Indian Country. To diminish crimes against the elderly, OVC awarded funding to the Blackfeet Child and Family Advocacy Center for the development of a promising practice for offering support and assistance to older victims in Indian Country. OVC's funding supports the adaptation of a TRIAD elder abuse program to fit an Indian Country setting—the Blackfeet Reservation, where 25 percent of the population, or about 1,500 persons, are considered elderly. The Blackfeet Center provided technical assistance to the Zuni tribe in developing an elder abuse program, as well as mentoring visits at four additional Indian reservations to help them adapt the TRIAD model.

The first TRIAD began in 1988 with the cooperation of the American Association of Retired Persons, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Sheriffs' Association. Since that time, many TRIADs have been established and have increased public awareness and decreased victimization of older people. The TRIAD model is based on a commitment between the sheriff, the chiefs of police in a county, and older or retired leaders. These components work to reduce the victimization of older persons and enhance the delivery of law enforcement services to older persons. A TRIAD's primary goals are to develop, expand, and implement effective crime prevention and education programs for older persons in a community.

Children's Advocacy Centers in Indian Country

Services to assist child abuse victims in Indian Country are scarce. Specific challenges to providing support for these victims include the remoteness of Indian Country in relation to existing services and cultural issues surrounding services that are not designed for American Indian children. Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) are increasingly being established in urban areas to help victims recover from abuse and participate in the criminal justice process. Through a grant, OVC funded the National Children's Alliance to establish three new CACs on American Indian reservations. The three participating tribes are the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Funding will be used for program development, training and technical assistance, and cross mentoring. The CACs will work with their communities to develop multidisciplinary teams whose goal will be to improve communication among tribal, local, and federal agencies in a way that minimizes trauma to child victims and improves evidence collection for the prosecution of child abuse.

Court Appointed Special Advocates in Indian Country

Child abuse victims must sometimes be involved with several different court systems to resolve the criminal and civil issues related to the child, the crime, and his or her caregiver. Systems can include the federal, state, and tribal criminal justice systems and the tribal abuse and neglect system. Children involved in these systems need an advocate who will look out for their interests. The National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program successfully trains volunteers to act as advocates for child abuse victims in court. Of the 900 CASA programs nationwide, only 22 are in Indian Country. This project supports existing tribal programs through training, technical assistance, and program implementation efforts. It also provides three tribes with seed money to begin developing tribal CASA programs.

Riverside Indian Boarding School Demonstration Project

The Riverside Indian Boarding School (RIBS), one of seven off-reservation boarding schools, was opened in 1872 by Quaker missionaries to educate Wichita tribal members. It now serves about 65 tribes nationwide, and current enrollment is estimated at 600 students who range from 9 to 20 years old; 52 percent are girls, and 48 percent are boys. It is also estimated that more than 90 percent of the students are direct victims of crimes such as neglect and child abuse, rape, and incest; have been exposed to or attempted suicide; and have witnessed other forms of violence. The primary goal of RIBS is to increase the knowledge and skills of school staff members to more effectively serve students who have been victimized and exploited. For more details, read the grant application kit on the OVC Web site.


OVC continues to solidify its strategy for assisting victims in Indian Country by providing much-needed resources, improving and increasing services, identifying promising practices, and adapting and replicating successful programs. In addition, OVC seeks to collaborate with other federal agencies to fund demonstration programs that help tribes and tribal organizations to more efficiently serve victims in their regions. In particular, OVC continues to strengthen its efforts to assist child victims in Indian Country. We hope our collaborative efforts will result in sensitive and more complete services for all American Indian victims.

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