Governor Walker Signs Historic Tribal Compact to Improve Child Welfare System
October 19, 2017 ANCHORAGE — Governor Bill Walker signed a historic compact with Alaska Tribes and Tribal Organizations today that will strengthen the state’s child welfare system and reduce over time the disproportionate number of Alaska Native children in foster care. The compact – signed at the 51st annual Alaska Federation of Natives Convention – recognizes the authority of Alaska Tribes to provide child welfare programs and services on behalf of the Alaska Office of Children’s Services, providing greater local oversight of family services.
“Supporting Alaskan families is crucial to building a Safer Alaska,” Governor Walker said. “My administration is committed to reducing the disproportionate number of Alaska Native children in our foster care system. This compact is the first of its kind for both Alaska and the United States. I thank the Department of Health and Social Services, Department of Law, and Alaska Tribes and Tribal Organizations for crafting this unique new partnership. Every day, Alaska’s Tribes and Tribal Organizations provide essential services to children and families. This compact builds on that great experience, and incorporates their values, culture, and traditions into our child services system.”
Alaska Native children have been disproportionately represented in the state’s foster care system for decades. While only 19 percent of Alaska children are Native or American Indian, 55 percent of Alaska children in out-of-home foster care are of Native decent, and 61 percent of Alaska Native children in foster care will ultimately be placed in non-Native homes.
The Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact establishes a system to better deliver child welfare services. The compact acknowledges the government-to-government relationship between the state and Tribes, and clearly identifies child welfare services for Tribes and Tribal Organizations to carry out within a defined jurisdiction or service area. Alaska Tribes and Tribal Organizations have successfully partnered with the state to deliver essential health care services for years. This compact builds on those partnerships and strengthens child welfare services in Alaska.
“Our children are our greatest resource and will help guarantee a bright future for our state,” said Lt. Governor Byron Mallott. “Alaska Native children steeped in the love, values, and culture of their Tribe have the best chance of being healthy, engaged members of society. This compact builds a strong relationship between the state and Tribes that will ultimately benefit all Alaskans.”