Feasibility Study for the Evaluation of DHHS Programs Operated under Tribal Self-Governance. 1.2 - Background of the Study


In the Tribal Self-Governance Amendments of 2000 (P.L. 106-260), Congress re-affirmed its commitment to Tribal self-governance.  In the Preamble to the Act, the Congress defined the goal of self-governance as “to permit an orderly transition from Federal domination of programs and services to provide Indian Tribes with meaningful authority, control, funding, and discretion to plan, conduct, redesign, and administer programs, services, functions, and activities (or portions thereof) that meet the needs of individual Tribal communities.”

The Act established Tribal Self-Governance of Indian Health Service programs on a permanent basis.  In addition, the Congress directed the Secretary of DHHS to “conduct a study to determine the feasibility of a Tribal self-governance demonstration project for appropriate programs, services, functions, and activity (or portions thereof) of the agency [HHS].”  The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation conducted the Tribal Self-Governance Demonstration Feasibility Study in 2001-2002.  The Final Report on the Study, submitted to Congress in March 2003, identified 11 DHHS programs as “feasible for inclusion in a Tribal self-governance demonstration project” (p.15).  These 11 programs[1] are: 

  • Administration on Aging
  1. Grants for Native Americans
  • Administration for Children and Families
    1. Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
    2. Low Income Home Energy Assistance
    3. Community Services Block Grant
    4. Child Care and Development Fund
    5. Native Employment Works
    6. Head Start
    7. Child Welfare Services
    8. Promoting Safe and Stable Families
    9. Family Violence Prevention:  Grants for Battered Women’s Shelters
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
    1. Targeted Capacity Expansion
  • There are Tribes currently managing each of these DHHS programs that were determined feasible for inclusion in a Tribal Self-Governance Demonstration project, under contractual arrangements or grant awards.  A Self-Governance Demonstration program, as detailed in the Final Report, could permit a simpler, multiple-program application process and simpler and consolidated reporting requirements.  Importantly, the Demonstration program could provide “Tribes with the flexibility to change programs and reallocate funds among programs” (p.19) to better address specific Tribal community priorities.

    Congressional action would be necessary to authorize a DHHS Tribal Self-Governance Demonstration.  In order to anticipate evaluation issues that would arise if a demonstration were to be authorized, DHHS identified a need to examine how an evaluation of outcomes and successes of Tribal management of health and social services programs might be conducted. While a number of assessments of tribally-managed programs have been conducted, these have been primarily qualitative in nature. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (OASPE) was interested in determining the feasibility of conducting an evaluation that includes both qualitative and quantitative analysis of processes and outcomes associated with DHHS programs managed by Tribes under self-governance.

    In September 2002, DHHS contracted with Westat, and its subcontractor, Kauffman and Associates, Inc., to conduct a study of the feasibility of evaluating DHHS programs operated under Tribal self-governance that would provide background information and assess the feasibility of conducting a rigorous and defensible evaluation of DHHS programs managed by Tribes under self-governance.

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