Inua Ubuntu (To lift up, I am because we are)
The overall intention of Inua Ubuntu is to improve the lives of young African-American men and boys by connecting them with strong role models in their neighborhoods and reinforcing with their families the sources of strength in their communities. The specific goal is to intercede in families with male African-American children where there is a risk for formal involvement with the child welfare system and to reduce the disproportionality this population experiences in both entry-into-care and accepted-for-services outcomes.
Inua Ubuntu is an African-centered, village-based approach to reaching these goals. It operates by enhancing the overall well-being of the family and the child by moving them toward collective interdependence as members of a functioning, culturally rich community and away from dependence on formal government-funded supports.
The DHS Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF), funds four agencies to accomplish these goals. Three agencies are located in the heart of communities with high populations of African-American families: The Center for Family Excellence in the Hill District, Project Destiny on the Northside and Small Seeds Development Inc. in the East End. The Mel Blount Youth Home in Claysville, Pa. provides day treatment services, respite and residential care when needed.
When a report alleging abuse or neglect is received by the CYF Intake Office, staff determine if the family includes a male African-American child and if the family lives in one of the three communities that house an Inua site. If both of these conditions are true, the initial assessment is conducted jointly by a specially trained Inua Ubuntu CYF caseworker and a cultural consultant from the nearest community partner agency. Because of the focus on specialized training, the interviews may uncover cultural misconceptions at the root of the initial allegation, thereby bringing formal CYF involvement to an end. At the very least, an effort is made to engage the family members in a candid, positive conversation about their challenges and strengths and how they may be incorporated into the fabric of the community.
Since the goal is to redirect the family away from formal child welfare involvement, the cultural consultant leads the intervention phase of the family’s interaction. The consultant presents participation in the Inua Ubuntu process as voluntary, allowing the family to select traditional services or those associated with Inua; either of which will keep the child safe.
If the family selects Inua participation, the male child is introduced to a male mentor who has committed to involvement in the life of the child. The mentor, a community cultural consultant, engages the child through conversation and by acquainting him with other resources in the community. The consultant taps into the strong tradition of spirituality in the African-American culture and helps to build a network of trustworthy, culturally familiar community supports for the child and his family so that both can thrive for the long term. As the bonds to the community become stronger, so too does the family. Over time, formal involvement with the Inua agency lessens and the family moves toward interdependence, taking advantage of the new tools and connections made during the Inua Ubuntu process.