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NAYA builds cultural connections for tribal families

The Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) Foster Care Support Program works to build connections between and among youth, their tribe, and other Native people to help youth and families develop strengths and resiliency. NAYA serves families in the Portland, OR, area.

NAYA was informally founded by parent volunteers in 1974 and became a nonprofit organization in 1994. The center has continued to grow to meet the needs of the Native community in Portland, and now provides services to youth from birth to age 24 and their birth and foster parents.

This is one of 31 profiles that appears in Support Matters: Lessons from the Field on Services for Adoptive, Foster, and Kinship Care Families.

Publication date: 2015

Population served

  • Children and youth aged birth to 24 involved with state or tribal foster care systems.
  • The Foster Care Support Program serves more than 55 youth and their families.

Theory of change

Empowering youth with 10 core values — respect, balance, pride, giving, community, tradition, kindness, accountability, diversity and leadership — will provide them with enhanced stability. Empowering youth and supporting families will change generational trauma for Native families.


The Native American Youth and Family Center (known as NAYA) is a nonprofit organization that serves self-identified Native American families throughout the Portland, OR, metropolitan area. Agency services include in-home support, elder services, housing, education, and other services to meet the community’s needs.

Role of public child welfare agency

The Oregon Department of Human Services and tribal child welfare agencies refer children and families to the program and co-manage the cases of children and youth who engage in NAYA services.

Key service components

NAYA builds connections between and among youth, their tribe, and other Native people to help youth and families develop strengths and resiliency.

The organization offers the following services to children, youth, and families in the Foster Care Support Program:

  • Monthly sibling and family visits — A monthly gathering with meals and activities enables children and youth who are in foster care or kinship care to visit, have fun, and spend time with their siblings, caregivers, and birth family members in a safe environment. Youth also participate in cultural teachings and activities.
  • Coaching — Through case management, staff help foster and birth parents build a larger network of cultural and academic support so that they in turn can support the youth in their care. Coaching also offered helps birth parents navigate the system and work on their parenting plan.
  • Training — NAYA offers the Positive Indian Parenting curriculum four to five times a year to all community members; foster parents and relative caregivers are encouraged to attend.
  • Educational Support — Youth can attend NAYA’s alternative high school where they are taught using culturally specific techniques. NAYA also provides after school programming and tutoring.
  • Generations Project — NAYA is in the process of creating intergenerational housing to support youth and their kinship, foster and adoptive families by providing housing and cultural supports. Elders will also live in the complex and volunteer 10 to 12 hours each week to support the youth through tutoring and mentoring in cultural ways.

Outreach efforts

  • Families who have been served by the program serve as ambassadors to the program and conduct outreach.
  • NAYA staff communicate frequently with state child welfare workers about the available services.
  • The NAYA website and email newsletter spread the word.

Staffing and training

  • 2 full-time foster care specialists
  • 1 full-time foster care services manager

All foster care staff receive training in:

  • The Native American Youth and Family Center’s core values and engagement techniques
  • Trauma-informed care
  • Positive Indian Parenting curriculum
  • Domestic violence (40 hours)

Staff also participate in two to four hours of additional training each month and attend an annual foster care conference.

Evaluation and outcomes

The NAYA Center evaluation, designed by the director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, focuses on the NAYA assessment tool. The tool is a culturally based measurement that guides case planning and assesses youth across the domains of context, mind, spirit, and body. Measurements include:

  • Healthy relationships
  • Connections to Native ancestry
  • Safety
  • Coping capacities
  • Personal capacities
  • Focus and determination

For the Foster Care Support Program, results include:

  • 95 percent of youth involved in the program report a positive or improving outlook on cultural identity.
  • The majority of children and youth served are on target with connections to kin and family.

Budget and funding

Annual budget: $211,000


  • The primary funders of the Foster Care Support Program are the City of Portland (through the Portland Children’s Levy), the Oregon Children’s Fund, the Children’s Trust Fund of Oregon, and the Kellogg Foundation.
  • The Oregon Department of Human Services provides funding for youth receiving independent living services.

Partnerships required or recommended

NAYA works closely with the Oregon Department of Human Services and tribal child welfare agencies, and also partners with local community-based agencies providing foster care or serving foster families.

Challenges and future directions

  • It is difficult to find and build trust with youth and families who most need the support.
  • Services are limited to the city of Portland due to funding restrictions.

In the future, NAYA would like to expand beyond the Portland city limits and to be able to provide more support and empowerment services to families.

Learn more




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