Primary Sources: Adapting and Evaluating Family Group Decision Making in Tribal Communities

Photograph of Lakota symbols.

"Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) with Lakota Families in Two Tribal Communities: Tools to Facilitate FGDM Implementation and Evaluation" (abstract). Child Welfare, Vol. 91, No. 3 (2012).

What it’s about: Together, Sicangu Child and Family Services on the Rosebud Reservation, Lakota Oyate Wakanyeja Owicakiyapi on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Casey Family Programs, and the University of Minnesota Duluth adapted the evidence-based Family Group Decision Making model for use in Native American communities. FGDM is centered on a half-day group-decision-making meeting that engages families, as well as other important people in a young person’s life, in a youth's treatment plan. This article outlines the challenges and successes the partners encountered, particularly issues unique to Native communities, such as intergenerational grief and trauma and concerns stemming from past misuse of data gathered from Native American communities.

Why read it: The Family and Youth Services Bureau promotes the use of evidence-based practices such as FGDM. Oftentimes, practices need to be adapted to fit the cultural context in which they are being used. This article describes that process in two Native communities.

Biggest takeaways for family and youth workers: At the two organizations that took part in this study, some staff resisted change and did not buy in to the use of FGDM, preferring other models they were already using. Their resistance may have reflected a tendency to underestimate families' ability to make decisions on their own, without the input of social service professionals, the authors write. Some staff were also confused because some FGDM referrals are voluntary while others are court-mandated. Staff thought mandated sessions clashed with the idea of FGDM as a voluntary forum.

Despite the challenges the project faced, the authors write that FGDM can be adapted by each community to meet its needs. They say that their acknowledging the historical factors that influence state and Tribal relations made staff more likely to accept FGDM. The authors conclude by noting that many tribal stakeholders believe FGDM and other forms of family engagement will lead to fewer child placements in out-of-home care. With proper implementation, the authors say, decisions about the future of a child's life can be made more efficiently and equitably.

Additional reference: Read "Bright Idea: Professionals Take a Back Seat in Family Group Decision Making" for an in-depth look at FGDM in practice. 

9-5 pm Eastern