A sustainable, community-led project to help more children and families thrive


SPIRIT (Supporting Protection, Integration, and Resources In Tribes) is a research initiative studying cooperative interventions with vulnerable Native American populations to promote the cultivation of child well-being and character virtue development.  This is an important area of knowledge, as demonstrated by the challenges facing governments and NGOs in the context of development and capacity-building: local capacity must be increased to sustain programs and ensure positive outcomes.  Through cooperative interventions with tribes, SPIRIT researches models for how vulnerable communities can increase local capacity in programs that cultivate and support child well-being and character development.  

SPIRIT is grounded in evidence-based methods, applying best practices in intervention science and child wellbeing to all aspects of the project.  The approach invests directly in communities by building the capacities of local stakeholders to define child wellbeing, prioritize child needs, and build on local strengths to establish child-centered programming.  This approach allows tribal institutions to identify and design programs within cultural and historical traditions so that results are relevant to native families.  Empirical evidence shows that this investment allows for locally-led innovation and direction and provides the best foundation for sustainable programs.  This is especially critical in pueblo and native populations, where external agencies and NGOs have historically relied upon top-down, outside-in hierarchical models of implementation to limited success.  

Building on existing collaborations and partnerships with Taos Pueblo, SPIRIT is working to pilot the approach in this community.  In doing so, SPIRIT works to identify, prioritize, create, and sustain culturally and historically appropriate programs in child development.  Further, by working in collaboration, it seeks solutions that build on local strengths and offer support and investment in the tribal community.  This model for intervention may be used in tribal communities across the state and country.  In this approach, SPIRIT advocates for improvements in state child protective services models of intervention.

New Mexico enjoys a broad range of distinct tribal communities from small to large, offering many opportunities for partnership in the SPIRIT approach and supporting the development of an effective and portable model to be used in tribes across the country, as well as state child protective systems that serve Native Americans. 

Healing of Hearts

Youth Heartline has used a similar approach with Taos Pueblo to hold two Healing of Hearts conferences focused on Taos Pueblo's own articulations of its community's needs.  SPIRIT not only builds on this approach in a cohesive and comprehensive way, the project leverages the important working relationships and bonds to foster trust and engage the Taos Pueblo community.