Meeting Child Care Needs in Tribal Nations

Meeting Child Care Needs in Tribal Nations

Mathematica Offers Recommendations to Strengthen the Child Care and Development Fund for Indigenous Communities
Jan 02, 2024
Meeting Child Care Needs in Tribal Nations

Mathematica provided recommendations to the Office of Child Care (OCC) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) for strengthening the Tribally-administered Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) by making the program more collaborative, tailored, and accessible for Tribal communities. 

“The proposed changes can empower Tribal Lead Agencies to implement more culturally responsive and community-driven child care programs that align with Tribal values; promote self-determination; and honor the rich history, ancestral wisdom, and diversity of caregiving practices within Tribal communities,” wrote Mathematica. “Ultimately, this approach can better support the goals of Tribal CCDF programs while respecting and upholding Tribal sovereignty.” 

Mathematica’s comments came in response to OCC’s request for information on whether changes to rules or requirements are needed to improve implementation of Tribal CCDF programs. The Child Care and Development Fund is a block grant to state, territory, and Tribal governments that provides assistance to families with low incomes who need child care due to work, work-related training, or attending school.  

Mathematica’s comments were prepared by Mathematica staff who are Tribal citizens and draw on the organization’s experience providing training and technical assistance for Tribal child care programs, promoting Tribal sovereignty in federal programs, coordinating early childhood programs, and promoting innovation in grant operations. Specifically, the insights and recommendations for changes to CCDF that uphold Tribal sovereignty and center the unique ideas, voices, and needs of Tribal communities include:

  • Focusing on iterative solutions that prioritize capacity-building of Tribal Lead Agencies and collaborative partnerships, including through targeted capacity-building support and technical assistance and investments in systems and protocols that facilitate comprehensive data integration and sharing across programs.  
  • Fostering partnerships based on mutual respect between federal agencies and Tribal entities to address data sovereignty concerns, including through meaningful consultation and collaboration with Tribal Nations in developing and implementing data-related policies and reporting requirements; recognizing and accommodating diverse Tribal perspectives and approaches to data governance and management; and supporting capacity-building initiatives that empower Tribal communities to develop their data infrastructure and governance mechanisms. 
  • Enhancing OCC’s support of the existing drivers of quality child care in communities, including by ensuring flexibility to tailor services in culturally responsive ways; encouraging continuity of care and stable relationships between caregivers and children; and investing in professional development and training. 
  • Engaging proactively in meaningful, regular, and robust consultation with Tribal officials and elevating the focus on culturally responsive services for Native children. 
  • Engaging communities as early as possible in the development of culturally-relevant consumer education resources that center accessibility and provide tailored information. These resources should use community networks to disseminate resources. 
  • Enhancing eligibility requirements by improving eligibility criteria to foster better coordination between Tribal CCDF programs and other early care and education initiative; adjusting eligibility requirements to improve access and expand opportunities for Tribal Nations and communities to access child care and early learning services; and recognizing and respecting Tribal sovereignty to shape eligibility requirements. 
  • Supporting an effective early childhood workforce by revising or removing requirements that either do not fully consider the unique circumstances of Tribal Lead Agencies or exclude Elders from formal roles in early childhood education.  
  • Changing eligible child care provider requirements to increase flexibility in the definition of eligible providers to accommodate traditional caregiving structures and acknowledge the cultural nuances within Tribal communities; expand the definition to acknowledge and include communal caregiving practices; grant Tribal Lead Agencies more authority to define and determine eligible providers based on their unique cultural values, family structures, and community needs without stringent federal limitations; and engage Tribal communities in the process of shaping provider eligibility criteria, ensuring that the criteria reflect community values, traditions, and family structures.