First Nations Development Institute Awarded $675K for Native Family Empowerment Program


First Nations Development Institute today announced it has been awarded a grant of $675,000 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, to conduct a three-year project aimed at improving the economic stability of Native American parents, and thus bettering their children’s chances of success. In particular, the project will target Native parents attending tribal colleges.

“Research shows that family economic security is a key to creating conditions that help children be successful in learning, school and life,” said First Nations President Michael E. Roberts. “But nationally, American Indian kids, especially those living on reservations, experience high rates of poverty, nearly twice that of the general population. We hope this Native Family Empowerment Program provides a widely replicable model of how low-income parents can improve their families’ economic stability and security, thus giving their children a fair shake at a more successful future.”

In the effort, First Nations will partner with tribal colleges and Native community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to offer services that support financial capability and asset-building for the Native families. According to Sarah Dewees, First Nations’ senior director of research, policy and asset-building programs, “This will provide a pathway out of poverty by offering a centralized bundle of helpful services such as benefits screening, financial coaching and asset-building, income tax assistance and preparation, and workforce development. In collaborating with reservation-based tribal colleges and CDFIs, we’ll share their established communication channels and existing relationships with Native community members, many of whom are non-traditional-age college students with their own children. It’s a ‘two-generation strategy’ for lifting Native youth out of poverty.”

First Nations will soon launch a competitive application process for selecting the partner tribal colleges and CDFIs, who will work together to provide a tightly integrated system of identifying and delivering the services.  The colleges will generally provide benefit screenings, relevant classes, financial aid guidance and social supports such as child care, while the CDFIs will generally provide secondary screenings, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs, Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) for both parents and children, and related financial services.

For 34 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities.  First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit

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