LINCOLN, Neb. (KCAU) — A $2.5 million grant has been awarded to Nebraska organizations to help reduce the number of indigenous children in the child welfare system.

The grant will provide $500,000 over five years to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Children and Family Services, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, the Omaha Nation, and the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, according to a release from DHHS.

The release said that the money from the grant will be used to help plan a way to “strengthen best practices in Indian child welfare services to preserve families of federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, protect children, and ensure that children remain connected to their families, communities, and culture.”

The goals of the project include increasing compliance with the Federal and State Indian Child Welfare Act, increasing tribal capacity to meet the communities’ needs around prevention, safety, permanency, and well-being, and enhancing the relationships between tribe and state.

“This grant funding will allow DHHS to continue and improve on our close relationships with Nebraska’s tribes and continue efforts to best serve children on tribal lands and in indigenous communities,” CFS Division Interim Director Tony Green said.

“As a UmoNhoN tribal member and the Director of the CFS and ICWA for the UmoNhoN Tribe, I am happy to hear about the grand,” said UmoNhoN Director of Children & Family Services and ICWA DeAnna Parker. “The partnerships we have built with Nebraska DHHS will become stronger through this as well as the partnerships we will build with the Nebraska legal system. These partnerships are important to us, as they are surrounding our children.”

The Winnebago Tribe Human Services Director Miskoo Petite said, “This funding will assist our department in collaborating with our state partners by utilizing a holistic approach in assessing how to increase the quality of services and best help our families and community.”

“This funding will provide for additional collaboration between the Nebraska Tribes and DHHS in order to allow for increased ICWA compliance and implementation of best practices within ICWA cases. The Ponca Tribe is excited to continue and enhance our relationship with DHHS to ensure that the best interests of Ponca and Native families remain a priority,” Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Chairwoman Candace Schmidt said.

“This grant opportunity will strengthen statewide partnerships with the tribes and provide resources for further compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. The judicial Branch’s CIP looks forward to partnering with the tribal nations in Nebraska with DHHS,” said Nebraska State Court Administrator Corey Steel.

DHHS said in the release that they plan to work with the tribes to develop a framework that will help meet the needs of the CFS programs as well as work to conduct community resource mapping on reservations and in communities with high indigenous populations. A resource map would help better identify resources that are available in the areas.

Additional plans include recruiting and licensing more indigenous foster homes, culturally based primary prevention strategies, and leveraging existing funding to best meet the needs of children and families.