Little Hoop Model for Welfare Reform

Nov 15th, 1996 | By | Category: 8-3: Ceremony, Tribal College News

As the rest of the nation ponders how to implement welfare reform, Little Hoop Community College has a head start. Six years ago, Little Hoop initiated a Comprehensive Child Development Program that has demonstrated its success at changing lives on the Fort Totten Reservation in North Dakota. It has been transformed into an Early Head Start program. Little Hoop’s project was one of 24 research and demonstrations nationwide and the only tribal project funded by U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS). Most dealt with inner-city families.

Little Hoop College assists young families to become self-sufficient by using a holistic education approach, according to Beverly Graywater, Early Head Start director at Little Hoop. In addition to Early Childhood Education Centers for the children, the staff works with the parents on issues such as health, budgeting, goal-setting, and parenting skills.

For the demonstration, Little Hoop worked with 45 local low income families. Only four of the parents were working at the beginning. At the end of the five years, 33 of the parents were working (on a reservation with about a 60 percent unemployment rate). Nine of the parents had earned two year college degrees, and eight of those had transferred to four year colleges. The HHS demand for data at times seemed overwhelming, Graywater says, but in the end it paid off. In May, the college received $900,000 from HHS to continue its work through the year 2000.

Despite the difficulties, Graywater and her staff felt inspired by the results. The families were happy, especially important to Graywater since she, too, is a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe. “We’re not born with parenting skills. Our families were torn apart over the last 100 years, with young children being taken away to boarding schools,” she says.

With the new program, Little Hoop can rely upon the paraprofessionals (mostly tribal members) who were developed and trained during the demonstration. They can help guide young families toward positive, healthy lifestyles. The college is chartered by the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe (formerly Devil’s Lake).

“With welfare reform here, it is critical that all tribes take these changes seriously. Change can be positive and exciting,” Graywater says. Anyone who wants a report on the program can contact Beverly Graywater at (701) 766-4070.   Although a small college, Little Hoop Community College employs over 100 people for the many community services that it provides, including day care, health services, and meals.

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