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OU-Tulsa Faculty Member Receives Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant to Study Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act

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October 11, 2021

OU-Tulsa Faculty Member Receives Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant to Study Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act

TULSA, OK – Claudette Grinnell-Davis, PhD, MS, MSW has received a $442,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Policies for Action program to study the implementation and impact of the 2015 Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) statute. Dr. Grinnell-Davis, an assistant professor in the Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work at OU-Tulsa, will serve as the principal investigator for the grant. This research grant is the first step in understanding how best to support Indigenous communities in Nebraska in restoring balance within their communities and generating collaborative strategies to heal the historical trauma that has disrupted tribal communities there for over 150 years.

This Indigenous-led research collaboration amongst the University of Oklahoma, the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Coalition, Inc. (NICWC), and Nebraska Appleseed will have direct guidance and collaboration with tribal citizens through every stage of the project. Other community partners on this project include: 

●      Four headquartered Tribal Nations in Nebraska (Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Santee Sioux Nation, and Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska) 

●      Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

●      State of Nebraska Foster Care Review Office

●      State of Nebraska Court Improvement Project

“The work done by Dr. Grinnell-Davis and the team through this grant will be one of the first large-scale evaluations of the Indian Child Welfare Act at the state or federal level since its implementation,” said Jim Sluss, OU-Tulsa interim president. “This is important work and will demonstrate how policy changes have resulted in improvements for American Indian children, their families and their communities. I am proud of the research being done at OU-Tulsa around this important issue.” 

Nebraska’s state-based Indian Child Welfare Act allows the state to continue promoting Native familial connections and culturally competent services even with the on-going national debate around the overall constitutionality of ICWA and its implementation.  Additionally, this research grant will evaluate the impact of the Indian Child Welfare Act’s advancement of improving equity for Indigenous families, including promoting cultural connections and cross-sector collaborations. 

“Thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation our team will be able to analyze policy and practice in Indian child welfare in Nebraska and identify ways to improve services while strengthening and enhancing partnerships among state agencies, nonprofits and tribal nations to promote continued healing,” said Grinnell-Davis. 

The research will be conducted through administrative data analysis, case record reviews, stakeholder interviews and policy legislative mapping. The following broad questions will be explored in collaboration with tribal and agency partners: 

  1. Did revisions to Nebraska’s state ICWA statute in 2015 result in fewer Indigenous youth entering the foster care system? 
  2. Did the changes in agency regulations and practices and the cross-sector relationships that developed as a result lead to provision of more culturally competent services and improved outcomes for Indigenous youth and families in the foster care system? 
  3. What is working well with the law’s implementation? What and where are areas for improvement?

“Our faculty at the Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work are always working to improve lives in our communities. The work of Dr. Grinnell-Davis to improve child welfare services, particularly for Native families, is an outstanding example of the difference our faculty make in our community,” said Julie Miller Cribbs, PhD, MSW, director of the Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work. 

“The Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Coalition, Inc., founded as a grassroots organization in 2008, is thrilled to collaborate with Nebraska Appleseed to examine the impact of the fruits of our joint efforts, which resulted in the unanimous passage of legislative amendments to the Nebraska ICWA in 2015. The data and information gathered during this project will guide our strategic efforts during the next several years as we continue to advocate for and educate about ICWA compliance statewide.” said Misty Flowers, executive director of the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Coalition, co-principal investigator of the grant, and citizen of the Santee Sioux Nation. “We are also happy that Dr. Grinnell-Davis and the University of Oklahoma are joining us in this effort, and we are excited to work with them.” 


About OU-Tulsa

OU-Tulsa is a nationally-recognized center for higher education offering a wide range of 30+ undergraduate, Master’s, and Doctorate level degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Programs include architecture, engineering, education, nursing, public health, occupational and physical therapy, library and information studies, organizational dynamics, public administration, social work, human relations, clinical mental health counseling, as well as medicine and physician assistant through the OU-TU School of Community Medicine. Since 1957, OU-Tulsa has provided higher education to NE Oklahoma and moved to the 60-acre Schusterman Campus in 1999.