Positive Indian Parenting (PIP) is an 8-10 week curriculum, developed by the National Indian Child Welfare Association, that provides practical and culturally specific training for American Indian and Alaska Native parents. The training helps parents explore the values and attitudes expressed in traditional AI/AN child-rearing practices and apply them to modern parenting. The curriculum draws on the strengths of traditional Indian parenting practices using storytelling, cradleboard, harmony, lessons of nature, behavior management, and the use of praise. It also addresses the historic impact of boarding schools, intergenerational trauma and grief, and forced assimilation of parenting; it empowers Indian families to reclaim their right to their heritage to be positive parents.
National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA)
Positive Indian Parenting
Program Running Length:
1987 – present
The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) evolved from the Northwest Indian Child Welfare Institute, which was developed in 1983 in response to the need for trained Indian child welfare workers in both reservation- and urban-based Indian child welfare programs. The Institute was sponsored by the Parry Center for Children, in cooperation with Portland State University, and was guided by a team of advisors, mostly from Northwest tribes. In 1985, staff, trainers, and advisors decided that the Institute should continue operation under Native American control. In 1992, the Institute changed its name to the National Indian Child Welfare Association and began the transition to a national scope.
The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) is dedicated to the wellbeing of American Indian and Alaska Native children and families.
NICWA’s vision is for every Indian child to have access to community-based, culturally appropriate services that help them grow up safe, healthy, and spiritually strong—free from abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation, and the damaging effects of substance abuse.
Members of the National Indian Child Welfare Association include tribes, individuals—both Indian and non-Indian—and private organizations from around the United States concerned with American Indian child and family issues.
Western parenting programs often fail to address the unique challenges faced by American Indian and Alaska Native parents, children, and families, and they neglect the rich tribal traditions and knowledge passed down from generation to generation.
Positive Indian Parenting is designed to meet the needs of both Native and non-Native parents, relatives, caregivers, foster parents, and others who strive to be more positive in their approach to parenting. Positive Indian Parenting is implemented within a tribe and/or community serving American Indian and Alaska Native people. Participants may enroll voluntarily or be mandated to participate. The Positive Indian Parent training for facilitators is intended for tribal child welfare workers and other personnel who work with AI/AN children and families.
Positive Indian Parenting was created by the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA). NICWA gathered information from tribal elders across the Northwest to inform the development of the curriculum. Since the program’s inception, thousands of child welfare workers and other personnel who work with American Indian and Alaska Native children and families have been trained and certified to implement the program, which has been delivered to countless parents.
Positive Indian Parenting offers participants a structured exploration of traditional American Indian and Alaska Native values concerning parenting and helps participants apply those values in a modern setting. The training workshop for facilitators aims to prepare tribal child welfare personnel to successfully implement the Positive Indian Parenting curriculum in their tribes.
Positive Indian Parenting draws on the strengths of traditional Indian child-rearing practices using storytelling, cradleboards, harmony, lessons of nature, behavior management, and the use of praise. It also addresses the historic impact of boarding schools, intergenerational trauma and grief, and forced assimilation of parenting; it empowers Indian families to reclaim their right to their heritage to be positive parents. Positive Indian Parenting is strengths-based, conveying the message that our ancestors’ wisdom is a birthright for AI/AN parents. The curriculum examines how many AI/AN families were deprived of the right to learn traditional practices, invites participants to reclaim values that may have been lost by earlier generations, and validates existing traditional knowledge and values.
Positive Indian Parenting is an 8-10 week parent training class for Indian parents, caregivers, and non-Native foster parents of Indian children. The program is curriculum-based and includes eight modules, delivered by trained facilitators.
- Orientation/Traditional Parenting
- Lessons of the Storyteller
- Lessons of the Cradleboard
- Harmony in Child Rearing
- Traditional Behavior Management
- Lessons of Mother Nature
- Praise in Traditional Parenting
- Choices in Parenting/Graduation
The program uses experiential learning techniques. Each session starts with a brief lecture, followed by an interactive exercise and a group discussion. It is recommended that sessions be delivered weekly for 2-3 hours each.
Positive Indian Parenting may be delivered separately to target audiences with specific needs, such as: fathers, mothers, teen parents, grandparents, and parents with substance abuse issues. Clients may voluntarily self-refer to the Positive Indian Parenting program, or they may be required to participate by a court or by a child welfare agency. Some tribes provide incentives, such as gift cards, to clients who voluntarily decide to complete the program.
The Facilitator Training Process
Facilitators of Positive Indian Parenting must be trained and certified by the National Indian Child Welfare Association. Interested facilitators are required to participate in a three-day workshop that focuses on how to successfully adapt and implement the Positive Indian Parenting curriculum. Those who complete the workshop are then qualified to deliver the curriculum directly to clients, or to train child welfare personnel within their tribe to facilitate.
During the workshop, a lead trainer helps facilitators to adapt the Positive Indian Parenting curriculum to their tribe’s culture and needs. Each workshop lesson includes themes and points of view from different tribes. The facilitators can then add their tribe’s unique traditions and practices into the Positive Indian Parenting curriculum template, and tailor the program to the common parenting concerns in their community. Additionally, child development information is woven throughout the curriculum to ensure that parents develop clear and appropriate expectations for their children’s developmental milestones.
Facilitators can modify or supplement the curriculum as needed. For example, facilitators might invite guest speakers such as elders, who might discuss the traditions that influenced how they were parented. Facilitators may also invite support persons to comfort parents in case the discussion brings up painful experiences or memories. Facilitators are responsible for checking in with parents individually about their emotional wellbeing following each session. Additionally, when clients are mandated to the program, staff provide regular compliance reports to the court or child welfare agency that describe the parent’s attendance and participation.
The National Indian Child Welfare Association sets some general guidelines for facilitators. Facilitators may be: case workers, social workers, elders, victim advocates, or substance abuse counselors, as well as others. Lead trainers must be American Indian and Alaska Native. Non-Native facilitators must co-facilitate with a Native facilitator. Ideally, each session should have two facilitators.
The Positive Indian Parenting curriculum is taught using a train-the-trainer model. A lead trainer from the National Indian Child Welfare Association instructs facilitators from individual tribes to train their colleagues. The program is then administered within each tribe by the trained staff.“The training reaffirms the work that I am doing and helps to connect me with other native facilitators and trainers. Now that I came here and engaged, the curriculum comes alive. It gives me more perspective to go and serve parents.” – PIP Participant.
The Positive Indian Parenting trainers are employed by the National Indian Child Welfare Association. The training is available on site at the tribe, or practitioners can attend one of NICWA’s Training Institutes. The cost of on-site training for tribes and communities is typically around $2,000 per day for the three-day workshop (daily rates vary slightly depending on the trainer selected to provide the workshop), in addition to travel costs and $40 for each participant for training material. The fees for the training institutes range from $495 per person for early registration to $560 for full price registration. The training is typically paid for by the tribe, community, or through one of the National Indian Child Welfare Association’s technical assistance contracts. Consultation with Positive Indian Parenting trainers is also available for $200 per hour.
The National Indian Child Welfare Association offers long-distance technical assistance to tribes seeking to implement the Positive Indian Parenting program.
Positive Indian Parenting is the most popular curriculum developed by the National Indian Child Welfare Association because of its broad applicability and flexibility. It uses a cultural lens and it empowers parents to engage and participate.“An engaging and respectful way to deliver knowledge of traditional parenting styles and how those were negatively impacted by colonization. Even though I knew the history prior, the class helped me understand how to effectively utilize the knowledge in a training format.” – PIP Participant
Hundreds of tribal staff are trained each year. There is a maximum of 50 participants in each training session.
There have been no formal evaluations of Positive Indian Parenting. However, the curriculum is grounded in extensive child welfare practice experience. Moreover, the program has been deemed an effective practice by the First Nations Behavioral Health Association.
The National Indian Child Welfare Association provides a template for parents to evaluate the Positive Indian Parenting program. This evaluation form can be administered at the end of each session or at the end of the program.
The National Indian Child Welfare Association tracks the number of individuals and tribes that have participated in the Positive Indian Parenting training. However, there is currently no mechanism for determining how many tribes have implemented the program. Interested individuals should contact NICWA directly for additional information about tribes that are implementing Positive Indian Parenting. NICWA is currently developing an evaluation and tracking process to better capture this information.A Positive Indian Parenting success story can be found at the following link: http://www.nicwa.org/success/positive_indian_parenting.asp.
An elder participates in a PIP training session.“Thank you for the positive outlook and viewpoint. It has been an empowering experience for me.” – PIP Participant
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