As we observe National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Indian Health Service has an important role in improving the lives of Native youth.
When I reflect on my Tribe's past, and similar stories across many tribal nations, I know that my ancestors raised their children through strengths-based parenting and strong communities. Bernard Romans, a renowned Dutch cartographer who surveyed Choctaw lands in the 1770s, wrote that children "are never beaten or otherwise rudely chastised and very seldom chided."
H. B. Cushman, the son of missionaries working at Mayhew, a Choctaw Indian station in Mississippi in the mid-19th century, wrote that "one would naturally infer that youth would arrive at manhood, a set of desperadoes, indulging in every vice and committing every crime. But this was not so. No race of young people ever grew up to manhood who were of a more quiet nature and peaceful disposition than the youths of the Mississippi Choctaws." These historical accounts are a testament to traditions that carry on to this day.
IHS recently hosted training provided by the Johns Hopkins University in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where 26 community health representatives were trained in an early intervention home visiting program called Family Spirit. Family Spirit focuses on young children up to three years of age and their families. It is evidence-based, culturally tailored, and shown to improve outcomes for children with the help of front line community health representatives.
In March, IHS announced ten pilot sites in our Pediatric Integrated Care Collaborative , or PICC, to improve the capacity of primary care to serve children and families experiencing trauma and chronic stress. The project is a result of a partnership between IHS and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Mental Health Services in Pediatric Primary Care. Under the guidance of Johns Hopkins faculty, pilot sites will work toward increasing the quality of child trauma services by integrating behavioral and physical health services for families with young children.
In February, IHS announced a new service of the Indian Children’s Program which offers pediatric neuropsychology consultations to provide expert opinion, clarify diagnoses, and provides behavioral health treatment recommendations. The Indian Children’s Program also offers training for healthcare providers on important clinical topics, such as autism.
The IHS also provides child sexual abuse examiner and clinical skills training for health care providers through a partnership with the International Association of Forensic Nurses called the Tribal Forensic Healthcare Training Project. The training allows medical professionals to acquire and maintain the knowledge, skills, and competency to provide clinical services in response to child sexual abuse. The next web-based course on pediatric sexual assault examiner opened on April 19. It is a self-paced course and runs through June 30. For more information, please visit http://www.tribalforensichealthcare.org/ .
In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I encourage you to join us in our efforts of early intervention, screening, assessment, training, and community-based programming to build resiliency among children and youth and promoting family engagement.