Sarah (Hicks) Kastelic knew she wanted to pursue a career in working with Native communities, but it wasn’t until she arrived at the Brown School that she found a focus for her ambition. Now, as Executive Director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA), she’s helping to change national policies to make an impact.
Kastelic’s father’s family lived in a small community near Kodiak, Alaska, the Native Village of Ouzinkie. Her family background kindled a special interest in Indian affairs, which led her to the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies.
“When I came to the Brown School in 1996, there was a new director of the Buder Center, Dr. Eddie Brown (now at Arizona State University), who played a very central role in my experience,” she said. “I fell in love with social policy while I was at the Brown School.”
Her concentration practicum was at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, where she went to work after finishing her MSW. She then joined the National Congress of American Indians, the nation’s oldest and largest Indian advocacy organization, and continued working for it after she returned to Brown to pursue her PhD.
She joined NICWA in 2011, and moved to its home base in Portland, OR.
“I love it out here,” she said. “The sense of community and natural resources are just amazing.”
“Thinking about federal policy as an agent of large-scale social change is very compelling to me,” she said. “It really was my experience at the brown school that pointed me in that direction.
NICWA’s accomplishments have included expansion of Title IV-E, a federal foster care and adoption assistance entitlement program, to tribal governments. Katelic testifies before Congress and state legislative committees, and supervises a staff of 23 and an annual organizational budget of $3.5 million.
NICWA has a close relationship with the Brown School and regularly hosts practicum students, sometimes hiring them as staff afterward. It also sends employees to pursue an MSW at the Brown School.
“It’s really been an incredible opportunity,” Kastelic said of her career. “It’s really a gift from the Brown School.”