Keeping children with their extended families and avoiding foster care is the goal of Yakima's KINdred Spirits. The initiative helps American Indian kinship families through everyday challenges with services such as:
- providing school supplies
- making emergency utility payments
- supporting family participation in cultural traditions
Support groups at heart of the program
For many kinship families, the main benefits come through monthly support groups, which alternate between educational and recreational activities, such as a class on “Parenting the Second Time Around” and trips to the movies. Youth and families receive help such as referrals to mental health providers, respite care, legal assistance, and tutoring.
Services are available to American Indians of any tribe living on the Yakama Indian reservation and on ancestral lands ceded to the U.S. government, which covers most of Central Washington.
Kinship families are eligible for services if they have been referred through the Washington Department of Children and Family Services or the Yakama Nation tribal court or child welfare system.
Upholding tribal and cultural teachings
The kinship care program builds cultural awareness among kinship families and child welfare workers, such as by hosting a mini-powwow in November. Each summer, it provides sleeping bags and other supplies for enrolled Yakama youth who attend camp in the restricted area of the Yakama Nation. There, campers can participate in daily sweats and learn other cultural traditions.
Healing is a big issue for families who have suffered trauma that spans generations. Caregivers may have been brought up in the Indian Boarding School era or in a family affected by alcoholism. To help family members create and strengthen bonds, the kinship care program collaborates with Yakama Nation Family Counseling to hold an annual family retreat.