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Center for Tribal Social Work

Center for Tribal Social Work

About the Program

The Center for Tribal Social Work operates within the Anne & Henry Zarrow School of Social Work, strongly partnering with Center for Child Welfare Training and Simulation. The Center focuses on training and workforce development for tribal social service programs.

What We Offer

Child welfare training is just the start of the possibilities of the CTSW. The list of social services provided by tribes opens many areas of training and workforce development possibilities. Child welfare is the best place to start because of the funding available and the experience of those working on this project now.

The CTSW can assist with assessing the current tribal child welfare workforce to determine training needs and wants, then finding, modifying, or developing effective training in partnership with the tribe. The Center can also help strategize for the Implementation and evaluation of services, helping tribes align with federal requirements, as needed.

A woman dancing in a traditional outfit

The Center has developed simulation-based training in partnership with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and several Oklahoma tribes. The training involves preparing workers (“learners”) for a home visit in a simulated environment at OU-Tulsa. There we have an apartment, fully furnished with working appliances and a restroom where any situation can be staged to make the experience more lifelike.  The worker visits with parents (portrayed by trained actors) with specific goals for the visit. The visit is recorded with high-quality video and audio for review later. The actors give feedback to the learner immediately following the visit, then the learner participates in a larger debriefing with all the other learners from the day’s training. Additional feedback can be provided by the trainer, a supervisor, or even the learners themselves with the recording of the visit.

Training Modules

Simulation Center

Training modules are generally developed at the request of a tribal partner and usually include input from tribal child welfare leaders.

Additional modules are currently being developed, including:

  1. The NASW Code of Ethics Applied in Indian Country
  2. Writing Skills for Child Welfare Professionals
  3. Communication in the Professional Workforce

The CTSW has developed training modules which can be delivered via Zoom technology. Modules that are ready to go include:

  1. Court 101: Etiquette and Qualified Expert Testimony
  2. Ethics and Boundaries
  3. The Strengths-Based Approach
  4. Rapport Building and Interviewing Skills
  5. Cultural Humility
  6. Differential Response
  7. Privilege and Bias
  8. Home Visiting Safely
  9. Imposter Syndrome
  10. The Profession of Social Work
  11. Trauma in Indian Country
  12. Resilience in Indian Country
  13. Theories and Practice
  14. Working with Families Experiencing Poverty
  15. Policies and Advocacy
  16. What Animals Can Teach About Parenting

Meet the Staff

Dallas Pettigrew

Dallas Pettigrew, MSW


Tulsa Campus


Dallas Pettigrew Profile

Cortney Bolt

Cortney Bolt, MSW

Program Manager

Tulsa Campus 


Cortney Bolt Profile

Partners, Funders, & Helpful Resources

  • Casey Family Programs
  • Choctaw Nation
  • Muscogee Creek Nation
  • Capacity Building Center for Tribes
  • National Child Welfare Workforce Institute
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs Eastern Oklahoma Regional Office


The Center has been awarded $1.6 million since 2018 from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Capacity Building Center for Tribes, the National Child Welfare Workforce institute, and Casey Family Programs. The Center continues the work of training tribal child welfare professionals in Oklahoma and beyond.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s Children and Family Services division invited the Center to help develop and deliver training to their entire child welfare workforce of nearly 100. This partnership continues to grow, too. The Choctaw Nation’s Children and Family Services’ training team has participated in the training from development to delivery and have now taken over the largest part of the training with the Center for Tribal Social Work staff serving in an advising role.