OGDEN, Utah – For the second year in a row, a Weber State University student has been invited to present undergraduate research at the prestigious Posters on the Hill event, scheduled for April 25 in Washington, D.C.
WSU sophomore Kalista Francom’s research on the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was one of only 60 projects selected from more than 3,000 applications submitted nationwide. The Posters on the Hill event, sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research, is held annually to thank lawmakers for their support of federally funded scientific research and to demonstrate the results of that research at colleges and universities across the country.
Last year, WSU zoology student Eric Gabrielsen was invited to share his findings on brine shrimp flies at the Capitol Hill event.
Francom’s poster presentation, “Seven Generations of Child Welfare from an Indian Perspective,” provides a historical perspective on how Native American children have been treated during different eras, starting with 1800, which pre-dates government intervention.
The poster is the result of research Francom started during her freshman year. Initially, she was interested in studying the outcomes of Native American babies adopted into Caucasian families.
“Over the years, a lot of Indian children were placed with white families as a way of forcing assimilation,” Francom said. “Not only was it hard on the Indian culture and tribes, but for the individual Indian child as well. Many Native American children placed in white homes suffer from depression and have a suicide rate more than six times the national average.”
Sealed adoption records, government red tape and the sheer scope of the project led Francom to refine the focus of her research to examining the ICWA and its effectiveness. The act was created in 1978 by the federal government to re-establish tribal authority over the adoption of Native American children, with the goal of strengthening and preserving Native American families and culture. But children continue to be adopted by Caucasian households, due to an ongoing lack of Native American foster care families.
For Francom, a native of Price, Utah, interest in the topic runs in her family. Her maternal grandfather is a quarter Yankton Sioux and spent years working on Native American adoptions. Thanks to an undergraduate research grant from WSU, Francom was able to travel to the Ute reservation in Fort Duchesne, Utah, and meet with Native American leaders in Salt Lake City. Both were great resources for her research, she said.
Francom has yet to declare a major at WSU, but she is considering a degree in social work, political science or a related field that will prepare her to serve as an advocate for Native American children’s issues.
During her visit to Capitol Hill, Francom will meet with members of the Utah Congressional delegation, offering her a glimpse of what her future might be like. Francom believes she will be most effective as an advocate if she is able to work with both the tribes and the federal government. In the fall, Francom will have a chance to learn even more about how the government operates, when she serves an internship in Senator Bob Bennett’s office.
Francom is grateful for the opportunities, but realistic about what she’s accomplished. She would like to expand her research and learn more about the effects of the ICWA on other Utah tribes, such as the Goshute, Navajo and Paiute.
“My research has offered me hands-on learning opportunities I never imagined,” she said. “While I’ve learned a lot, I feel like there is so much more I still need to learn.”
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