New center addresses trauma and resiliency in Native American children and families

Published on September 30, 2021

University of Iowa researchers have been awarded a $3 million grant over five years by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to establish and support a new center, the National American Indian and Alaska Native Trauma and Service Adaptation Center (TSA). The goals of the TSA are to increase the national infrastructure and workforce capacity to prevent, reduce, and treat trauma as well as to increase wellness and resilience among American Indian and Alaska Native children, adolescents, and their families. 

The TSA will be housed within the Native Center for Behavioral Health, which is a research center in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health at the University of Iowa College of Public Health committed to developing programs to support the behavioral health workforce in Native American and Alaska Native communities across the country.

Many American Indian and Alaska Native (AI & AN) children experience traumas resulting from abuse, neglect, and household stressors, and are additionally affected by racism, poverty, and the legacy of historical oppression and trauma. The workforce in the K–12 school system and the child- and youth-serving systems such as child welfare and juvenile justice is often unprepared to effectively address trauma in Native populations disproportionately represented in these systems.

The TSA will partner with management consulting and IT services firm JBS International and other experts to provide education, training and technical assistance, webinars, podcasts, peer-to-peer learning communities, youth leadership academies, and more to 2500 individuals annually.

“Importantly, our efforts will not endorse the inevitability of adverse outcomes,” says Anne Helene Skinstad, director of the Native Center for Behavioral Health and the program director for the new center. “The center will prioritize identification and dissemination of programs and approaches that seize the opportunities presented in early childhood and adolescence as an optimal time for prevention and intervention to mitigate trauma and promote resilience.”

Co-director of the new center will be Teresa Brewington, MBA, MEd, member of the Coharie Tribe and descendent from the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. 

The TSA also will fill trauma-related workforce gaps identified through a survey of the Native and non-Native workforce serving AI & AN children, adolescents, and families. These areas include trauma-informed education to help students and staff understand why these families tend to struggle and give up more often than other groups; concrete, practical, and actionable strategies tohelp children survive and thrive; and how to integrate services into Native cultures.

More information about the Native Center for Behavioral Health and its work is available at