Research with American Indian communities: The value of authentic partnerships
Developing evidence for practice is particularly difficult when attempting to accurately capture the experiences of diverse communities. In American Indian communities, the lack of communication between researchers and their subjects has been increasingly recognized. Recent adjustments to research methods, such as community-based participatory research (CBPR) have attempted to emphasize the importance of recognizing the needs and wishes of those studied. Yet, perhaps due to imperfect application, they may fall short in promoting participation and yielding accurate results. A number of fallacies can hinder successful use of the model including the assumption that 'cultural sensitivity' or even locating a project in the community of interest will open the door to successful engagement. Reality-based research was conceived to address these potential deficiencies. It builds on CBPR and is proposed as a means to more effectively develop a connection between American Indians who might benefit from the research relationship and the researchers themselves. An example of a reality-based research project on tobacco use is provided and steps for adopting this approach in child welfare are outlined. These steps set this article apart from other works seeking to address this issue and provide concrete practical assistance to researchers in the field.
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