The center for regional and tribal child welfare studies: Students’ experiences of an Anishinaabe-centered social work education program

Cary B Waubanascum, Wendy Haight, David Glesener, Priscilla A Day, Brenda Bussey, Karen Nichols

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2 Scopus citations


The dramatic over removal of Indigenous children in North American governmental child welfare systems remains one of the most important and neglected issues facing Tribal Nations, child welfare policymakers and practitioners today. This paper is the second in a series of three papers (Authors 2019, 2020) presenting an ethnographic study of the Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies in the Department of Social Work, University of Minnesota – Duluth, a child welfare education program grounded in an Anishinaabe knowledge and worldview. This paper focuses on the experiences of 8 student alums and the transformation of their cultural and professional identities and impact on their social work practice through their involvement at the Center. Broadly, students described similar experiences in the transformation of their cultural identities, as Indigenous or white people, and professional identities as social workers as a result of: 1) the Center's supportive environment that allowed them to let down their guards and learn emotionally painful child welfare history; 2) relationships established with Indigenous and non-Indigenous role models and tribal elders who provided meaningful mentorship; 3) Anishinaabe knowledge, culture, language and spirituality that decentered Eurocentrism in social work; and 4) exposure to accurate U.S. history and child welfare policy vis-à-vis Indigenous peoples. Indigenous students described unique experiences: strengthening of their Indigenous cultural identities, healing from historical trauma, and support in practicing decolonized, Anishinaabe-centered child welfare practice. White students described unique opportunities to address what it means to be “white” within a settler-colonial system, moving past shame when learning about U.S. history and child welfare policy, and addressing their own culturally based assumptions in their practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106450
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to acknowledge the Indigenous elders and Indigenous and partnering social work professionals who graciously shared their storied knowledge and wisdom. We look to them for guidance as we continue our work to protect our children and Indigenous cultures into the next seven generations. In addition, we were honored to work in partnership with Dr. Priscilla Day, Brenda Bussey, and Dr. Karen Nichols from the Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. This report was made possible through funding from the Gamble-Skogmo endowment of the University of Minnesota, School of Social Work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Child welfare
  • Decolonization
  • decolonizing social work
  • Disparities
  • Higher education
  • ICWA
  • Indigenous
  • Indigenous resistance
  • Indigenous social work education
  • Social work education


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