November 16, 2022

Kinship caregivers are a primary resource for vulnerable children, helping them feel safe while maintaining connections to their culture and community. But these caregivers face many challenges: accessing critical resources, seeking ways to work effectively with birth parents, coping with the financial strain of additional household members, and learning how to meet the complex emotional needs of children who have undergone trauma.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded a $2.2 million grant to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to establish the Gadugi Project, a multi-faceted, culturally centered and community-based initiative developed to meet the needs of kinship caregivers and reunifying families.

From this grant, the School’s Indigenous Wellness Research Institute will receive $475,000 for project evaluation. The principal investigator is Angelique Day, University of Washington School of Social Work associate professor, working with co-investigator Jason Ostrander.

The Gadugi Project will build on cultural wisdom and community strength to keep children with their families and within the Cherokee Community. Services will help provide long-term stability and safety, supportive and nurturing relationships, and resources easily accessible for caregivers.

“This is the first time funding equity has been awarded for a tribal project by the federal Children's Bureau,” said Day. “Usually tribal set-asides are much smaller than what the states are allocated but because this was an open competition, tribes could apply for the same dollar amount. Since the costs of creating these programs are no different for tribes than they are for states, we’re elated we can develop and test these interventions in a way that ensures they are set up for success.”

Day, who joined the School faculty in 2017, is an authority in the field of foster care youth and child well-being and has several research projects underway. One is to study the effect that foster, adoptive and kinship parent training intervention has on the stability and permanency of a teenage placement. Another is to determine whether targeted college access and retention programs can help students with foster care histories successfully complete post-secondary education.

IWRI will evaluate the project in partnership with the Cherokee Court System, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Departments of Information Technology and Communications, Heart to Heart Children’s Advocacy Center and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Legal Assistance Office.