Feasibility Study for the Evaluation of DHHS Programs That Are or May Be Operated Under Tribal Self-Governance. Findings: Tribal Perspectives


The Technical Working Group and other representatives of self-governing Tribes who provided guidance and input to this project emphasized a number of points that were important to the development of the study findings:

  1. Many Tribes that are involved in Self-Governance[1] are convinced that Self-Governance is a successful and effective mechanism for providing services to Tribal members.  Self-Governance can ensure that services are available to Tribal members and permits programs to be designed to meet specific Tribal priorities and circumstances.
  2. Many Self-Governance Tribes understand and support the concept of evaluation and recognize the benefits that evaluation processes and findings may provide to Tribes.  These benefits may include improved data systems/data availability, evidence of the effectiveness and success of Self-Governance, and information on “best practices” for management.
  3. The design of any potential evaluation should be developed through consultation between DHHS and the Tribes.  It is important that DHHS provide for the costs of any evaluation’s data and reporting burden on Tribes, if these costs are significant.  It would also be important that there be clearly defined limits on the timeframe within which evaluation-related data would be submitted by Tribes, if the data needed for evaluation was more extensive than the usual Self-Governance program reporting requirements.  In addition, Tribes are concerned about the total costs to DHHS of an evaluation and want to be certain that these total costs are justified by the potential benefits that might be obtained from an evaluation.
  4. Any evaluation design should take into account the goals and principles of Self-Governance.  Self-Governance offers Tribes the opportunity for flexibility to develop and re-structure programs to meet specific Tribal objectives.  Any evaluation design should be similarly flexible in defining the outcomes that would be measured.
  5. The design of any potential evaluation should also consider the fact that Tribally-managed programs are under-funded, generally.  This is a particularly important consideration if external comparison groups/strategies were to be used in an evaluation, since joint Federal-State funding of some programs is considerably higher than the funding provided to Tribes for those programs.
  6. Evaluation of existing DHHS/Indian Health Service (IHS) Self-Governance programs that have been operating for over a decade would be different from an evaluation of a potential new DHHS Self-Governance demonstration program.  The Indian Health Service has data that could be used for such an evaluation, if DHHS chose to conduct an evaluation. Technical Working Group members stressed, however, that an evaluation of DHHS programs that may be operated under a potential new demonstration would be more valuable and provide more useful information to DHHS and to Tribes. (A discussion of the feasibility of evaluating Indian Health Service programs operated under Self-Governance compacts is presented separately in Appendix F to this Report.)