Protecting Children and Healing Families, One Native Auntie at a Time
From left, Jeremy Braithwaite, Lizzie Lycett, Cori Biggs, Art Martinez,
Karan Thorne and Judge Bill Thorne during a training session with Indian
Health Council staff. Provided photo.
Twenty years ago, a group of Indigenous tribes in Southern California had nearly 500 of their children in local foster care systems. Today, according to Indian Health Council data, the number is closer to 30.
A main driver in recent years is My Two Aunties, a program that draws on family legacies and kinship traditions to wrap support and guidance around vulnerable parents and children living in a consortium of nine tribes.
Key to the approach is a pair of home-visiting workers, known as aunties, who are as steeped in tribal customs as they are in mandated reporting and making active efforts to reunify families after a foster care separation.
“Instead of ‘What’s wrong with you?’, they ask ‘What’s strong with you?’” said Karan Thorne, a member of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians who developed the program.