Cutler Institute

Muskie School to develop first-of-its-kind e-learning materials for tribal child welfare directors

The University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service will design and deliver e-learning resources for the new National Child Welfare Capacity Building Center for Tribes. The five-year, 16 million dollar grant from the Children's Bureau, an office of the Administration for Children and Families, was awarded in partnership with the Butler Institute for Families at the University of Denver and the Tribal Law and Policy Institute based in Los Angeles, CA, which co-lead the project, along with Westat, a research and evaluation firm in Washington, DC.

The e-learning resources created by the Muskie School will assist American Indian and Alaska Native child welfare directors across the country to build the capacity of their agencies to better serve native children who enter the foster care system. This will be the first time that online classes will be designed to address the unique needs of tribal child welfare directors. Topics will range from organizational management to the recruitment of native foster homes and the implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. By maximizing the use of technology and making courses and materials available online, the aim is to more effectively reach the over 200 eligible tribal communities throughout the nation.

Cutler Institute's Sue Ebersten and Julie Atkins with the National Child Welfare Capacity Building Center for Tribes executive teamThe Muskie School will develop a state-of-the-art content management system, the Tribal Information Exchange (TIE), which will be a simple and effective way for tribes to access and download the materials they need. Materials such as "Tribal Talks", brief videos of experts speaking on a particular topic, will be readily available through TIE. Lessons will also be available in the form of interactive webinars and peer-to-peer networks made up of tribal staff, allowing them to share ideas and challenges in real time, helping to address the isolation many tribal welfare professionals deal with living in remotely rural parts of the country. Materials will also be available to the general public as well as state child welfare directors and staff who work in partnership with tribal agencies.

The instructional design team at the Muskie School includes former health and human services practitioners, as well as experts in adult learning and learning design. The team brings knowledge and experience in creating high quality, cost-effective online continuing professional development programs, coupled with expertise in tribal child welfare.

The hope of the Capacity Building Center for Tribes is to ultimately provide a better quality of life for all native children, especially those who are in foster care, by helping to improve the systems that serve them.