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Tribal Elder Protection Team (TEPT) Toolkit 

Welcome to the Tribal Elder Protection Team Toolkit. This resource was originally created by the *NIEJI team but is now amended by NIJII. NIJII accepts responsibility for the accuracy of the information and the terms and concepts utilized in the module.   


This resource is crafted to guide the development, formation, and operation of a Tribal Elder Protection Team. A Tribal Elder Protection Team (TEPT) is similar to a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) as well as an Elder Protection Team (EPT) and so the information contained herein may be useful to a variety of teams (Section 1 will discuss the differences between these types of teams). The toolkit is divided into various sections, each focusing on unique facets of establishing a Tribal Elder Protection Team.   

Click on the titles below to advance to the specific sections.

Section 1: Introducing Tribal Elder Protection Team

The Tribal Elder Protection Team (TEPT) has been commonly referred to as a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) which is a group of professionals, family members, and community members from diverse disciplines. A key difference compared to MDTs is that TEPTs and EPTs specifically include the elder and try to exhibit person-centered practices when possible. A key difference between EPTs and TEPTs is that TEPTs try to utilize tribal resources and cultural practices and keep the elder in their chosen tribal community if possible. The TEPT provides comprehensive assessment and consultation in addressing elder abuse concerns. The TEPT also provides assistance to their clients to promote coordination among service programs available to elders. The TEPT seeks to improve lines of communication to efficiently address elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The TEPT increases relationships between tribal public service agencies while maintaining client confidentiality. Various professional disciplines are represented on the TEPT. Membership is limited and is not open to all service providers, or members of the public. The Tribal Elder Protection Team Toolkit will define the roles and responsibilities of the TEPT members. 

Section 2: Developing a Tribal Elder Protection Team

Establishing a Tribal Elder Protection Team (TEPT) in your community can be intricate, time-intensive, and challenging to organize. During the developmental phase, it is crucial to thoroughly assess potential barriers and identify areas of concern. Taking the time to address these aspects will significantly contribute to the successful formation of an effective TEPT in your tribal community.

Section 3: Developing Tribal Elder Protection Abuse Codes

The development of a tribal elder abuse code empowers a tribe to institute laws safeguarding elderly individuals within its jurisdiction from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. These codes play a vital role in the identification and resolution of elder abuse cases, delineating which agency is responsible for receiving and investigating suspected reports of abuse, as well as specifying the delivery of elderly protection services. When crafting a Tribal Elder Abuse Code, it is crucial for each tribe to develop its unique code rather than adopting an external one. While model codes can serve as helpful examples, tribes should exercise their sovereignty by creating codes that reflect their distinct identity. Throughout the development process, tribes should integrate their specific beliefs and values into the elder abuse code to ensure its cultural resonance.

Section 4: Tribal Elder Protection Team Members

The TEPT has members with different roles and responsibilities that work together for the protection of the Elder. In this section, the roles and responsibilities are identified and explained for the Coordinator, social worker, medical services, law enforcement, and the tribal housing authority.

Section 5: Cultural Sensitivity Resources

Materials are available to aid you in acquiring cultural sensitivity when addressing elder abuse. The highest priority is to ensure the safety of the elderly person while respecting their autonomy in responding to the abuse and neglect of a native Elder. Native American older adults typically do not report experiencing abuse or neglect when asked directly. However, when using the alternative terms “disrespect” or “bothered” many older adults will tell stories that uncover abuse, neglect or exploitation. It is also important to consider the role of the community and family in Native culture. Multigenerational homes at first glance may appear to be exploiting the older adult financially, but upon closer examination, it is clear that each person has a role in the family and contributes to the overall function of the family unit. Also included in the materials are suggested recommendations for developing and maintaining tribal relationships and a tip sheet for working in tribal communities.

TEPT Toolkit Development Team

The creation of this toolkit involved collaboration between the NIEJI and tribal experts from various fields, with a special expression of gratitude to our Elders for their invaluable wisdom.


  • Stephanie Bono – NIEJI Graduate Student Researcher

  • Dr. Jacque Gray PhD – Associate Professor & Associate Director, Center for Rural Health Indigenous Programs. Program Director, National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative (NIEJI). School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of North Dakota

  • Dr. Wendelin Hume PhD – Associate Professor Department of Criminal Justice, University of North Dakota

  • Honorable B.J. Jones – Director, Northern Plains Indian Law Center, College of Law, University of North Dakota

  • Wilson Wewa – Title VI Director for the Confederated Tribes of Warms Springs, Oregon

  • Dr. Blythe Winchester – Geriatrics and Palliative Care, Chief Clinical Consultant Indian Health Services, Eastern Band Cherokee, Cherokee, NC

For questions or comments about the toolkit, or for further assistance with using the toolkit, please contact us. This project was completed for the National Center on Elder Abuse and is supported in part by a grant (No. OI-90IE0001) from the Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Grantees carrying out projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Therefore, points of view or opinions do not necessarily represent official Administration on Aging or DHHS policy.

*The NIEJI project has been retired, but they have granted NIJII permission to share materials. The new ACL Title VI Elder Justice Grantee can be found at iasquared.orgYou can contact us with any questions at

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