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American Indian social workers giving back to community

Korina Barry. Photo courtesy of

Korina Barry is one of a growing number of American Indian youth who use grants, scholarships and special programs to pay for college and then use skills they learn to help their communities, according to this article on

Barry, whose had an absentee mother and father in prison, received a scholarship from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community that helped pay for her bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota.

Barry, 25, is a member of the Anishinaabe from the Leech Lake band. She is now giving back to her community, working as a social worker in the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) long-term foster-care unit at Hennepin County.

Experts say American Indian social workers such as Barry work well in tribal communities because they understand the history and culture. Some clients can also relate better to Barry, who succeeded despite coming from a troubled background.

“If we can have social workers that are a part of the tribal community, it helps families be more open to bringing their issues to an organization for help,” tribal elder Julia “Bunny” Jaakola said.

By the way Jaakola is also a social work graduate. She is coordinator of the behavioral health department for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

The relationship between American Indians and the social work community has been controversial, with social workers in the 1950s through 1970s removing American Indian children from their homes and forcing them to learn English and adopt Christianity. However, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 gave American Indians and Native Alaskans the right to self govern and to oversee child welfare issues among tribal members. To learn more visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Youth Development Current Trends: The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) website by clicking here.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi,
    Nice blog.
    I really appreciate with it.
    Thank you.
    Youth social worker

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