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Practice Brief 6: Jurisdiction, Tribal Service Systems, and CACs

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2022
6 pages

Non-Tribal CACs committed to enhancing access to services for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children and families should work to understand the unique jurisdictional and service system array in the local Tribal communities they serve and to incorporate this understanding into their MDT membership, case review, and coordination processes, and other CAC operations.


As a result of Tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship that Tribes have with the U.S. government, Tribal communities present CAC professionals with unique jurisdictional issues unlike those that apply to other child and family populations. An MDT considering cases involving AI/AN children must clearly establish which federal, tribal, and state entities - including law enforcement, child protection, prosecutors, and courts - have authority and under what circumstances. This will be dependent on the location of the maltreatment, the type of crime, and the tribal affiliation of both the victim and perpetrator. One of the first measures non-Tribal CAC professionals committed to increasing access for AI/AN children should take is to map out the jurisdictional and service array in the Tribal areas they serve. On reservations occupied by more than one Tribe, multiple jurisdictional and service arrays may exist, as individual Tribes can enter into various contracts with the federal government to assume certain services but not others. Having understood the overall array, CAC staff should then build relationships not only with current key personnel in the relevant agencies but with others in those agencies, as well as with community members who may be involved or connected to youth services, the courts, mental health, medical care, victim services, and related fields. NCARC also recommends seeking out Tribal elders, who are often informal community leaders and key sources of guidance for understanding local contexts and dynamics. These external contacts will allow CACs to sustain connections to the community and to relevant agencies amid heavy staff turnover, which is typical among Tribal agencies and federal agencies.

Date Published: October 1, 2022