Celebrating Native American Heritage Month with AI/AN FACES data

By Meryl Barofsky , Laura Hoard, and Allison Walker, Office of Planning, Research, & Evaluation

We are celebrating Native American Heritage Month by sharing some of the accomplishments of the American Indian/Alaska Native Family and Child Experiences Survey (AI/AN FACES). AI/AN FACES was designed to provide descriptive, nationally representative information on tribally operated Region XI Head Start programs, staff, families, and children. A study like this had never been undertaken for a variety of reasons, including the time and resources required to engage in the intensive community-based planning needed to successfully carry out the study in partnership with Region XI Head Start programs and communities.

Nearly two years of extensive planning preceded AI/ AN FACES 2015. Planning was informed by principles of participatory research with AI/AN communities and with advice from members of a workgroup composed of Region XI Head Start directors, researchers, and federal officials. Workgroup members provided advice on every question we asked participants, including how to effectively and respectfully engage with tribal communities (including co-presenting at tribal councils and tribal institutional review boards), train data collectors, and disseminate findings. AI/AN FACES 2015 was the culmination of intensive and thoughtful planning. We continued our engagement with the workgroup members when we conducted AI/AN FACES 2019.

We followed procedures for tribal review and approval in each Head Start program’s community when we recruited communities for study participation in both 2015 and 2019. While this takes time, it is vital to respect and follow each community’s procedures about research. We found that recruiting and obtaining research clearance from tribes in the right way created buy-in at the community level that trickled down to increased participation in all levels of our study. AI/AN FACES 2015 had over 90% response rates for most of our respondents, which is rare for projects of this scale.

An important goal of the study was to make sure that the information collected would be shared with the participating communities as well as the larger policy, practice, and research communities. As much as possible, this work is reviewed by and often presented with members of our workgroup, honoring the participatory research philosophy of the project. We hope you will find time to review the important information learned about Region XI children, families, staff, and programs.

The Region XI Head Start directors who were part of the workgroup were especially interested in making the collected data available for secondary analysis by qualified researchers. Tribal IRBs, recruited programs, and individuals agreed to this data archiving and as such, requirements were put into place to assure that only qualified individuals (both in knowledge of data analysis, but also knowledge of and experience working with tribal communities or partnering with individuals who would share that knowledge) would be able to access the data. A process was created for those wishing to obtain the data, including preparing a proposal for the AI/AN FACES data committee to review. More information about the data available and process for obtaining and using the data is available on the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) website

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. Many research questions exist, and we hope and encourage individuals to apply for the data.

AI/AN FACES provides important information for practitioners, policymakers, and researchers. We hope that you will take a look at what is currently available and keep coming back to learn more. For further information, visit the AI/AN FACES home page.

To access the resource, please click here.