In October 2018, Strive received a grant from the Best Starts for Kids (BSK) Innovation Fund.1 The purpose of the grant is to collaborate with the Cowlitz Tribal Health-Seattle (CTHS) team, to develop a culturally-specific adaptation of the Strive parent visitation program, and expand the Cowlitz Tribal Health services to include supervised visitation for American Indian/Alaska Native families in King County.

As part of the BSK grant requirements, both teams attended a three-day BSK conference together in early October. In addition to getting to know each other better, the conference provided the opportunity for us (the Cowlitz/Strive teams) to discuss which of our values were most important for the advancement of our partnership and working together to begin developing a culturally-and program specific Theory of Change model (TOC).2 As this was our first meeting together as a group, we were delighted to discover that the Strive and CTHS teams shared many of the same values, especially about working with families. The more we talked, the more we realized our values aligned!

Much of the discussion during the first day centered on how to create an adaptation of the curriculum that represents Native values and cultural teachings, the nuances of Native identity, and the richness of the Native community living in the King County area. Both teams (Cowlitz/ Strive) agreed that approaching the adaptation process utilizing a decolonizing lens with a focus on historical trauma would be foundational to our work together. The interconnectedness of culture, family, beliefs, resilience and healing in the face of historical trauma and oppression seemed difficult to capture in the TOC model that our team was asked to use for the BSK conference. Together we grappled with how to create a holistic understanding and representation of individuals, families, and community to fit into the TOC, which is more linear in nature.

On the second day of the conference, Masha Fry, Mental Health Program Manager with CTHS, provided an indigenous representation of the team’s TOC using the medicine wheel and the teachings of the different directions, to help contextualize the TOC from a more linear approach to one that is more rounded holistic and culturally specific to the Native families we will be working with. It was then that we decided to collaborate on an adaptation of the Theory of Change into the Medicine Wheel. At the conclusion of the three-day BSK conference, the Strive team was then invited to attend a two-hour workshop at CTHS for a medicine wheel training with Reuben Twin, Substance Use Disorder Supervisor. Reuben provided background on the history of the medicine wheel, giving life to each direction of the wheel, helping to connect those directions to the values that exist within the Strive program. With this information, Masha Fry and Tascha Johnson, a POC practicum student from the UW School of Social Work, have strategized together and developed a Medicine Wheel version of the Theory of Change. With this collaborative medicine wheel, we aim to ensure that the mission and values of this collaborative project align, and are specific to what both the Strive program and Cowlitz Tribal Health aspire to do going forward.

Best Starts for Kids is a voter-approved initiative led by Executive Constantine to help put every baby born and every child raised in King County, Washington on a path toward lifelong success.

2 A ‘theory of change’ explains how activities are understood to produce a series of results that contribute to achieving the final intended impacts.