Kansas Serves Native American Families

child holding hands with adults KSNAF - Kansas Serves Native American Families

Kansas Serves Native American Families (KSNAF) seeks to improve the well-being, safety, and permanency of Native American children affected by parent and community substance abuse through culturally integrated implementation and evaluation of the Strengthening Families Program (SFP). KSNAF recruits, trains and supports Native American individuals to offer SFP within tribal communities and for tribal populations in other sites. The goal of KSNAF SFP is to positively impact family bonding, communication, and caregiver supervision in a way that reflects community cultural values. KSNAF also facilitates cross-systems collaboration and infrastructure development to build culturally sensitive and trauma-informed capacity across agencies who provide services to Native American families affected by substance abuse and involved or at-risk of involvement with child welfare systems.

Project Information

  • PI: Michelle Levy

  • Dates: 2017-2022

  • Funder: Regional Partnership Grant (RPG - Round 4) from the Children’s Bureau, ACF, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Blue, red, white garland


All families are strong. In our program, "family" is defined by you. We welcome grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, or anyone who helps care for the children in your family to participate in SFP because we believe that ALL families grow stronger together!

Native American families are resilient. This means they often stand strong through facing systemic injustice and trauma. Systemic injustices include:

  • racism and discriminations,

  • historical trauma (injustices that happened to Natives throughout history)

  • intergenerational trauma (trauma to relatives and passed down through generations)

Trauma often leads to stress, anxiety, depression, substance use, violence, or feeling not good enough. This program can be especially helpful for families who want to overcome these challenges of systemic injustices and grow stronger together.

Our Vision

Working together, we support Native American parents in a way that reflects cultural strengths and values to help families to stay connected in safe and strong communities.

Working with tribal communities through respectful relationships and flexibility to support tribal community ownership and sustainability of support for Native children and families

Our priority is serving Native American families with children ages 0-18 who are:

  • In, or at risk of, out-of-home placement with a case plan goal of reunification or guardianship
  • Affected by parental/family substance use

Families Served

Our goal is to serve 80-100 families over the life of the program. 

To date, we have served 49 families including 68 adults and 96 children. 

The Strengthening Families Program is an evidence-based prevention program for caregivers and children. SFP includes parenting skills, children's life skills, and family skills training taught together in 14 two-hour group sessions. Each session begins with a family meal and includes informal family practice time and coaching by group leaders. Sessions address managing stress, communication, problem-solving, setting limits and other skills for family bonding, strengthening relationships and supporting well-being. The program provides transportation, child care and referrals on an as needed basis.

Families are referred from child welfare agencies, behavioral health treatment centers, courts, tribal health and social services, and other community services (such as domestic violence, early childhood). Families may also refer themselves to the program

  • Lindsey Hullman (Ottawa), Site Coordinator, White Cloud

  • Verna Simon (Kickapoo), Site Coordinator, Mayetta

  • Sierra Two Bulls (Ogala Lakota), Site Coordinator, Lawrence

  • Rachel Kent (Iowa), Parent Group Leader, White Cloud

  • Nikki Jackson (PBPN/Winnebago), Parent Group Leader, Mayetta

  • Marcus Buchanan (Cherokee), Parent Group Leader, Mayetta

  • Paola Ramirez, Parent Group Leader, Lawrence

  • Sabrina Etcitty (Navajo)

  • RaeAnn Hullman (Iowa), Child Group Leader, White Cloud

  • Ammie Holden (Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole), Child Group Leader, Lawrence

  • Shauna Logan (Navajo)

A comprehensive evaluation of KSNAF includes a focus on the process and outcomes of the program including its impact on children, parents, and systems that serve Native American families. This project is also part of a national cross-site study conducted by the Children’s Bureau and Mathematica. This study is approved the KU and Haskell Institutional Review Boards and was reviewed by tribal partners.

Collecting this information will help tribes and agencies to better understand and meet the needs of the families they serve and help to demonstrate the effectiveness of providing support for Native families to stay together and connected.

For more information about our impact, contact Evaluation Lead, Dr. Amy Mendenhall at amendenhall@ku.edu.

Watch Stephanie's Story

Learn how the Strengthening Families program helped Stephanie connect with her sons.

Create a Strong Nation

“If you have strong individuals and strong families, for Natives, that helps create a strong nation."-Verna Simon (Kickapoo), Site Coordinator, Mayetta

Served to Date

Families Total

Project Leadership

Amy Mendenhall
  • Associate Dean for Research & Faculty Development
  • Professor
  • Co-Investigator
  • Director for the Center for Community Engagement & Collaboration