Dept. of Health and Human Services

American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Youth

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010, there were roughly 5.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) living in the U.S., representing approximately 1.7 percent of the total U.S. population.1 This represents an 18 percent increase since the last decennial census. Of this group, more than 2.1 million American Indians and Alaska Natives are under the age of 24.2 This is approximately 42 percent of the total AI/AN population.

  • Nearly half of AI/ANs live on reservations or designated tribal lands in the western states, with the largest populations in Arizona, California, Oklahoma, and New Mexico,3 and 60 percent live in urban communities.
  • The states with the largest proportion of AI/ANs include Alaska with nearly 15 percent of the state population,4 California with 14 percent, and Oklahoma with nearly 10 percent.5

There are 573 federally-recognized tribes in 35 states in the United States.6 Each tribe is distinct, with its own form of self-governance, culture, traditions, language, and community infrastructure. In the state of Alaska there are 229 federally-recognized tribes.7

Sovereignty is a legal word for the authority to self-govern and to protect and foster the health, safety, and welfare of AI/AN peoples within tribal territory. Essentially, tribal sovereignty refers to tribes’ inherent rights to manage their own affairs and to exist as nations. Currently, the 573 sovereign tribal nations (variously called tribes, nations, bands, pueblos, communities, and Native villages) have a political government-to-government relationship with the U.S. government.

Tribal governments exercise jurisdiction over 100 million acres of land, that would make Indian Country the fourth largest state in the nation.8 Tribal governments are an important and unique member of the American family of governments, which includes tribal governments, the U.S. federal government, and the U.S. states. The U.S. Constitution recognizes that tribal nations are sovereign governments.

As members of tribes, AI/AN people have both an ethnic and political status. As governments, tribes exercise substantial governing powers within their territory, including regulating research. Similar to federal and state governments, tribes have sovereign power over their lands, citizens, and related affairs.

As a result of the government-to-government relationship between tribes and the federal government, the federal government is obligated by a responsibility relationship to protect tribal resources. Federal policies are designed to further the trust relationship including offering certain social services such as education and health, and support for tribal services provision. Previous federal policies of forced removal of AI/AN tribes from their traditional homelands, and forced assimilation of AI/AN people into mainstream America have exacerbated some of the social service needs of AI/AN youth.

Although tribes and their governments vary widely, to be a member of a tribe means to share a common bond that may include ancestry, kinship, language, culture, ceremonies, and political authority with other members. AI/AN tribes are working diligently to reverse the negative impacts of poverty, historical and intergenerational trauma, health, education, and justice disparities to ensure the future, health, and well-being of their members.


Native American Youth 101: Information on the Historical Context and Current Status of Indian Country and Native American Youth (PDF, 10 pages)
This resource provides information on the historical context and current status of Indian country and Native American youth.

The Center for Native American Youth
The Center for Native American Youth was developed to improve the health, safety, and overall well-being of Native American youth through communication, policy development, and advocacy.

The National Congress of American Indians
The National Congress of American Indians provides several channels to support Native youth, including the NCAI Youth Commission, the National Native Youth Cabinet, NDN Spark, and internships and fellowships. In 2011 and 2012 NCAI collaborated with the Department of Justice to host the National Indian Youth Summit.


1 American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes in the United States and Puerto Rico: 2010, 2011
2 Native American Youth 101, n.d.
3 Status and Trends in the Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2008
4 U.S. Census Bureau, 2015, race counted as ‘Native American and Alaska Native alone’
5 U.S. Census Bureau, 2012, race counted as ‘Native American and Alaska Native alone or in combination’
6 Bureau of Indian Affairs, 2014
7 U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Affairs, 2016
8 National Congress of American Indians, n.d.

The Crisis of Connection for Adolescent Boys: A TAG Talk

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health, in collaboration with the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs and New York University Professor of Developmental Psychology Niobe Way developed a video and two discussion guides about the crisis of connection, its impact on the health and well-being of adolescent boys, and the implications for their work with teens.

HHS and DOJ host listening session with youth who have an incarcerated parent

The effects of incarceration are felt far beyond prison walls: children, families, and communities also experience the consequences of incarceration.

New Brief Highlights the Needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth in Child Welfare Settings

A recent brief from the Permanency Innovations Initiative highlights how research is helping us to better understand the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth in child welfare settings. The brief presents findings from qualitative interviews conducted with youth participating in the Recognize, Intervene,

Connecting Partners and Resources to Prepare Youth for Careers: A Federal Partners in Transition Webinar

In November 2015, the Federal Partners in Transition, a workgroup with representatives of several federal agencies, including the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor, and the Social Security Administration, hosted their inaugural joint transition webinar.

Round 1 Pilot Site Announcement

The following is cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education's blog, published October 29, 2015. See the original blog post here.

We all share the goal of improving education, employment, and other key outcomes for youth, especially those who are disconnected from Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youthwork, school, or other social supports. Today, the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs is pleased to join with the interagency Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3) initiative in announcing nine pilots to improve outcomes for this underserved population. These pilots give state, local, and tribal governments an opportunity to test innovative new strategies to improve such outcomes for low-income disconnected youth ages 14 to 24, including youth who are in foster care, homeless, young parents, involved in the justice system, unemployed, or who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of school.

The idea is simple: P3 gives communities greater flexibility to use the federal dollars they already have more effectively, and they agree to be more accountable for concrete outcomes. This first set of pilots will test flexibility with federal youth-serving funds in diverse environments across America, including urban, rural, and tribal communities. Pilot sites include:

  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Broward County, Florida
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Los Angeles, California
  • The State of Oklahoma
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Southeastern Kentucky, including Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, and Perry Counties
  • Ysleta del Sur Pueblo

Pilots will implement solutions that include, for example, helping low-income moms acquire the skills to become better parents while gaining valuable job experience through childcare internships, helping foster youth successfully transition from high school to college or employment, and intervening with the highest-risk youth before they drop out of high school. In the coming weeks, Federal agencies and these sites will finalize performance agreements that will support the pilot’s work and outline the outcomes these solutions will be measured against.

Led by the Department of Education, P3 brings together six federal agencies including the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Justice as well as the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Institute for Museum and Library Services to help communities address common barriers. For example, practitioners and advocates on the front lines of service delivery have let agencies know that better outcomes are hindered sometimes by programmatic and administrative obstacles, such as fragmented data systems and program stovepipes resulting in poor coordination. P3 pilots can tackle these challenges more effectively by blending together certain federal funds that they already receive from the participating agencies and by acquiring new waivers and flexibility under federal statutes, regulations, and other requirements.

The P3 model emphasizes evidence and learning, both within communities and at a national level. The P3 competition asked sites to match existing evidence of what works with community challenges identified through a needs assessment and to demonstrate how they will use reliable data to guide decision-making and be accountable for better outcomes. All nine pilots responded to the competition’s incentive to rigorously evaluate the impact of at least one component of their on-site approach. Federal agencies will also conduct a national cross-site evaluation of how pilots implement the P3 model, their strategies, challenges, and outcomes. Findings will help strengthen how agencies and the field address disconnected youth needs in the future.

The zipcode a young person is born in should never determine his or her outcomes in life. To help prepare for the second P3 competition, which will be held this winter, the Department of Education has released a Notice of Proposed Priorities on behalf of participating agencies to seek ideas from the field on strengthening this important initiative and empowering communities to think big about reconnecting youth.

>> Click here for the U.S. Department of Education's press release on this announcement.

Update: Performance Partnership Pilots (P3) Notice of Proposed Priorities

Group of YouthIt’s an exciting time for Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3)! The participating federal agencies have two major updates to share with stakeholders on this initiative in partnership with state, local, and tribal governments to improve education, employment, and other key outcomes for low-income youth who are disconnected from work, school, or other social supports.

  • We’re inviting your feedback on how to strengthen our work. On behalf of the six participating agencies, the Department of Education has released a Notice of Proposed Priorities (NPP) that lays out priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria for our second round of P3 pilots as well as competitions that may be held in later years. The NPP tries to build on lessons learned in our first round of pilot selection. Because P3 is meant to support states, tribes, and localities in improving outcomes for disconnected youth, we need your input to improve the process for reviewing and selecting pilots. Please provide comments by November 23rd.
  • We’re getting close to announcing the first round of pilots. Participating agencies are currently working to finalize P3 performance agreements with nine sites. We look forward to making an official announcement and sharing more information about the pilots in the coming weeks.

» Click here to learn more about Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth

Guide for Incarcerated Parents Who Have Children in the Child Welfare System

A new guide helps parents involved in the criminal justice system work with the child welfare system to stay involved with their children and understand the reunification process.

Children of Incarcerated Parents: Presentations

Educators are Critical Partners in Making A Difference in the Lives of Children of Incarcerated Parents

On September 24, 2015, the Federal Interagency Reentry Council (FIRC) Subcommittee on Children of Incarcerated Parents and the American Institutes for Research hosted the webinar, Educators are Critical Partners in Making A Difference in the Lives of Children of Incarcerated Parents. This presentation and Q&A session provided the audience with statistics on the prevalence of children with incarcerated parents, practical tips for addressing the needs of these children and youth, and how to use collaboration, focused assistance, and advocacy to contribute to positive outcomes for children who have an incarcerated parent. Presenters included nationally-recognized experts, educators who are currently addressing the needs of children of incarcerate parents, and a youth whose parent is incarcerated:

  • Ann Adalist-Estrin — Director, National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated
  • David Osher — Vice President and Institute Fellow, American Institutes for Research
  • Dwight Davis — Assistant Principal, Turnaround for Children Partner School
  • Kendall T. — U.S. Dream Academy Graduate
  • Download the speaker biographies (PDF, 5 pages).

Watch the webinar recording:

Download the presentation slides (PDF, 60 pages).

Download the transcript (PDF, 20 pages).

» Learn more about Children of Incarcerated Parents at

» Join the Children of Incarcerated Parents listserv.

Family and Community Engagement

Family engagement is defined as “a reciprocal partnership between parents and programs that reflects a shared responsibility to foster young children’s development and learning.”1 Family and community engagement comprises parents (broadly defined to refer to a child’s or youth’s primary caregiver) and youth-service providers, school staff, and community members working together to actively support and improve the academic achievement, social and behavioral development, and health of children, adolescents, and young adults. This relationship continues from birth to young adulthood and reinforces the health and academic success of youth across a myriad of settings, such as home, school, and afterschool programs and within the community.2 In other words, family and community engagement is an essential component of improving outcomes for children and youth.3 Engagement extends beyond simple involvement by "motivating and empowering families to recognize their own needs, strengths, and resources and to take an active role in working toward change."4

Although the benefits of family and community engagement are clear, the role of youth-service providers, school staff, and community members in promoting this engagement is not as clear. Parents who want the best for their children may not receive adequate information and support to understand the importance of the many roles they play (e.g. as first teachers, advocates and nurturers) in their children’s development and how best to satisfy those roles. This lack of communication with and support for parents is associated with lower levels of family engagement.5 As we work to create a culture of shared responsibility for improving outcomes for all children , family and community engagement becomes an essential component of any collective impact strategy. In that respect engaging the families in our communities requires a shared effort, with youth-service providers, school staff, and community members committing to reach out to parents in purposeful ways to help them support their children’s development.6

The family and community engagement process develops over time and involves several key determining factors:

  1. Parents must believe that they play a vital and active role in their children’s development and education and have a positive sense of self-efficacy for helping their children succeed;
  2. Parents believe that youth-serving personnel value, expect, and invite them to be engaged; and
  3. Parents’ socioeconomic situation, knowledge, skills, and time support engagement.7

Academic Statistics

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics reports:

  • In 2013, 17 percent of young adults, 18-24 years old, had not completed high school, and 83 percent had at least a high school diploma or equivalency certification.8
  • In 2012, the average literacy proficiency level among youth, 16-19 years old, in the United States who had completed high school was the lowest among all of the countries participating in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Survey of Adult Skills (270 points for U.S. youth, compared to 285 points for youth in other countries; a difference of 5.26 percent).9
  • In 2013, the percentage of young adults, 20-24 years old, who were not enrolled in school or working was highest among those who had not completed high school (45 percent).10


Center for Promise
America’s Promise Alliance supports the Center for Promise in collaboration with Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences. The Center conducts evidence-based exploration of issues surrounding the dropout crisis and develops tools for communities to use to effectively support young people, including family engagement resources.

Family Engagement Inventory
The Family Engagement Inventory (FEI) is a free, interactive website designed to familiarize professionals in child welfare, juvenile justice, behavioral health, early childhood education, and education with family engagement, as defined and implemented across these fields of practice. The site aggregates knowledge in a way that helps professionals in multidisciplinary exploration of family engagement. FEI helps practitioners, managers, and system leaders understand the commonalities and differences in family engagement across the disciplines to support collaboration among the multiple systems that often work with the same families. FEI is a product of the Child Welfare Information Gateway, which is a service from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

GradNation: Family Engagement
America’s Promise Alliance supports the GradNation website, which provides information about key topics related to increasing high school graduation rates and opportunities for participation in local efforts. The website is an online community for stakeholders implementing dropout prevention efforts and serves as a space to share stories through text and multimedia. The Family Engagement section of the website contains tools, reports, research, and best practices for family engagement for educational support and dropout prevention.

Harvard Family Research Project: Family Involvement
The Harvard Family Research Project conducts research and evaluation projects and synthesizes the work of others to provide practical information to stimulate innovation and improvement in policy, practice, and evaluation around the well-being of children, youth, families, and their communities. The Family Engagement section of the website provides background, policy guidance, a network of family members involved in education, projects, publications, and resources on effective ways to support family involvement in children’s learning and development.

National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NRCOI)
NRCOI offers free, onsite training, technical assistance, research, and evaluation to help state and tribal child welfare agencies with strategic planning, improving quality, evaluating outcomes, facilitating stakeholder involvement, and improving training and workforce development. NRCOI is funded by the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children & Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement (NAFSCE)
NAFSCE focuses on advancing high-impact policies and practices for families, school, and community engagement to promote child development and improve student achievement.

National Parent Teacher Association (PTA)
The National PTA offers information and support to parents to help them stay involved in the lives of their children. The website provides resources for families, school personnel, and community organizations regarding educational success and parent involvement in schools. Resources focus on such topics as literacy, school climate, special populations, physical activity, military alliances, health and safety, male engagement, special education, and urban family engagement.

National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections (NRCPFC)
NRCPFC emphasizes family-centered principles and practices and provides training, technical assistance, and information services to help state, local, tribal, and other publicly administered or supported child welfare agencies. The Center is a service of the Children’s Bureau, Office of the Administration for Children & Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a member of the Training and Technical Assistance Network.

Parent Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)
Six regional PTACs are funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education. PTACs serve as a resource and technical assistance provider to OSEP’s funded network of Parent Centers. Parent Centers encourage families of children and young adults from birth to age 22 with all disabilities — physical, cognitive, emotional, and learning — to participate effectively in education at home.

Understanding the Roles of Parents and Caregivers in Community-Wide Bullying Prevention Efforts (PDF, 6 pages)
This resource is tailored for parents and caregivers as a guide to the training module.

You for Youth: Engaging Families and Communities Toolkit
This toolkit from the U.S. Department of Education provides lesson-planning templates, sample lessons, and resources that afterschool programs can use to build family and community engagement. The key goal is to increase student achievement, aptitude, and interest in science by involving families in the learning process and making the most of community resources.


1 Forry, Moodie, Rothenberg, & Simkin, 2011
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014
3] Bryk, 2010
4 Steib, 2004<
5 Hoover-Dempsey, et al., 2005
6 Westmoreland, Rosenberg, Lopez, & Weiss, 2009
7 Hoover-Dempsey, et al., 2005
8 Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2014
9 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2013
10 Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2014