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Yakama Nation supports kinship caregivers

The Yakama Nation Kinship program helps caregivers meet the needs of children in their care by connecting them with resources and necessary supports. Program components include support groups; camps; youth and caregiver events; and educational and material supports.

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 and their caregivers who are in court-approved kinship care and are enrolled with Yakama Nation.
  • The program serves 50 families with more than 100 children and youth.

Theory of change

If kinship caregivers are provided with necessary supports, they are better able to meet the needs of the children and youth in their care and the entire family will function more successfully. If caregivers have a person to contact when they need emotional support and other services, fewer tribal children and youth will enter the formal foster care system.


Yakama Nation Justice Services oversees the Yakama Nation Kinship Program.

Role of public child welfare agency

The tribe’s child welfare program (Nak Nu We Sha) refers families for support services. Kinship Program staff work closely with child welfare staff if the caregivers’ children are under the child welfare agency’s authority. The Washington Department of Social and Health Services also refers families to the program.

Key service components

  • Monthly support groups — Through monthly support groups, kinship caregivers provide peer support to one another and share information about effective services and resources. Children and youth also attend to make connections with others in similar circumstances and participate in activities. Food is provided at the meetings.
  • Caregiver events and respite — Caregivers participate in dinner and social events (such as theater shows, NBA basketball games, fairs, swimming and skating parties, and rodeos) where they can have fun, connect with one another, and take a break from caregiving. The local YMCA also offers three-hour respite events on Saturday evenings.
  • Camps — Youth are able to participate for free in Yakama Nation camps, including a weeklong summer camp and a special weeklong camp for high school students. The program has also arranged for discounted rates for a local day camp. While youth have fun and learn at camps, caregivers have respite.
  •  Navigation services and advocacy — Staff help kinship caregivers find and access needed services and resources in the community and build their understanding of the state or tribal child welfare system if the case involves child protection services. If the family requests support, the program manager can attend court hearings and school meetings as a family advocate.
  • Youth participation in events — The Kinship Program is able to send about 10 children or youth from the kinship group to participate in fairs, sporting events, and other activities offered as part of the Tribe’s LISTEN Together Youth Activities program. The LISTEN program helps youth develop leadership skills and build awareness of their heritage. Youth also serve as ambassadors and volunteer in the community when there is a need.
  • Educational support — The Indian Education program in the local school district provides youth in need with additional services and can help arrange for financial support to meet a specific educational request.
  • Material supports — About five families per month can access food through the tribe’s commodities program. Program staff also take caregivers who live on the reservation shopping where they can buy clothes, shoes, and other needed items for the children or youth in their care. The Yakama Nation Area Agency on Aging also has a fund of $5,000 to provide material support to the tribe’s kinship families.
  • Lending library — Caregivers can borrow articles, resource materials, books, and movies related to kinship care.

Outreach efforts

  • The local paper, Yakama Nation Review, donated advertising to promote the monthly support groups. A local radio station also promotes the program and events on air. The program also uses Facebook to announce events.
  • Local agencies refer families to the program.

Staffing and training

  • 1 full-time program manager
  • 1 full-time case manager to be added

The staff member is a court-appointed special advocate and has received training on Parenting a Second Time Around, historical trauma, and other topics related to child welfare and kinship care.

Evaluation and outcomes

The program manager is working with Casey Family Programs to develop evaluation tools for the program.

Budget and funding

Approximate annual budget: $149,000

The Kinship Program is funded primarily through tribal funds, with an additional, one-time grant from Casey Family Programs. The Area Agency on Aging’s fund of $5,000 for material supports is from the state of Washington.

The program also receives in-kind donations.

Partnerships required or recommended

  • The program partners with Casey Family Programs on program design, implementation, and evaluation, and Casey Family Programs provides ongoing technical assistance.
  • Staff also partner with local agencies to conduct outreach to families and identify potential community and tribal resources for families.


  • Ensuring ongoing, sufficient program funding
  • Not enough staff to meet the service demand
  • Tracking families and contacts

Learn more

Jenece Howe, manager, Yakama Nation CASA & Kinship Program: 509-865-5121, ext. 4878


Jenece Howe, interview, April 15, 2014.



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