Cultural competence emerged as a concept in the 1980s, took form as a set of organizational, educational, advocacy, policy, and practice constructs in the 1990s, and has since matured into a broad rubric that addresses social justice and service delivery quality, equity, access, and efficacy for people and groups of diverse backgrounds. Cultural competence has become an essential element of social work at every level of the field, from direct practice to social policy. The evolution of cultural competence and its role in social work is examined and summarized in this entry.
Terry L. Cross
Ann Rosegrant Alvarez
Despite many debates about the meaning and implications of multiculturalism, it remains an important concept within social work and other professional and academic disciplines. The basic idea of multiculturalism in social work education is that social work students need to learn to work effectively with people from many different cultures, and that this will have a positive impact on their social work practice and on outcomes for those with whom they work. It has been linked to issues of power, oppression, and social change. Future directions include focus on intersectionality and continued development of the implementation and implications of multiculturalism within social work education.
Betty Garcia and Dorothy Van Soest
A firm grasp of the nature of oppression, with its dynamics of power and its systemic character, is required so that social workers can avoid unintended collusion with pervasive oppressive systems if they are to be successful in promoting social and economic justice. Recognizing the relationship between macro-level and micro-level dynamics and their implications for practice is an substantive part of social work practice. This perspective includes attention to the ubiquitousness of privilege and oppression and the potential consequences of ignoring this reality as complicity in and normalizing exclusionary and marginalizing behaviors. This article discusses the concept of oppression, its dynamics and common elements, and anti-oppressive practices that can expose and dismantle oppressive relationships and systemic power arrangements.
Ronald Pitner and Izumi Sakamoto
For social workers, developing cultural competence is a necessary hallmark for interacting with our increasingly diverse and complex world. Developing cultural competence, however, requires continuously raising one’s level of critical consciousness. Critical consciousness and related concepts such as reflexivity, critical self-reflection, and critical self-awareness are widely recognized as a fundamental building block of human service practice, including social work practice. However, the dynamics involved in raising our own levels of critical consciousness are lengthy and messy because we often encounter cognitive and affective roadblocks. Thus, there is no single pedagogical strategy that could help all social work students effectively engage with this process. In this article the concept of critical consciousness postulated by Pitner and Sakamoto is applied specifically to the social work classroom setting. Their Critical Consciousness Conceptual Model (CCCM), which describes the process of developing critical consciousness by engaging one’s cognitive, affective, and behavioral domains, is presented. How this model can be incorporated as a pedagogical tool to help social work students develop and further strengthen their own levels of critical consciousness in the classroom setting is discussed, as are various pedagogical methods, including classroom debate, identity paper assignment, “creating a world map” exercise, and mindfulness-based pedagogy. Finally, implications for social work education are explored.
Deana F. Morrow
This entry will provide an overview of psychosocial issues and social work intervention relevant to working with lesbians. Practice issues related to the impact of heterosexism, coming out, lesbian identity development, and lesbian couple and family formation will be discussed. Assessment and intervention methods appropriate for social work practice with lesbians will be addressed.
Sarah (Hicks) Kastelic
Alaska Natives represent less than 1% of the U.S. population but reside in more than 229 Native villages and account for 40% of federally recognized tribes. Most Alaska Native communities shared common Euro-American contact experiences: exposure to western religions, education, and disease. Historical trauma contributes to many of the social welfare problems Natives experience today: low educational attainment, unemployment, inadequate health care, substance abuse, and violence. Service delivery mechanisms, lack of cultural appropriateness, and isolation compound these pressing issues. Locally delivered social welfare services that take into account traditional Native worldviews, values, languages, and intergenerational relationships are effective in addressing many of these issues.
Direct social work practice is the application of social work theory and/or methods to the resolution and prevention of psychosocial problems experienced by individuals, families, and groups. In this article, direct practice is discussed in the context of social work values, empowerment, diversity, and multiculturalism, as well as with attention to client strengths, spirituality, and risk and resilience influences. The challenges of practice evaluation are also considered.
Eun-Kyoung Othelia Lee and Ruth G. McRoy
This entry defines the concept of multiculturalism and explains, from a historical and contemporary perspective, its evolution and significance in social work. The relationship between multiculturalism and socioeconomic justice, oppression, populations at risk, health disparities, and discrimination is explained. The importance of preparatory training for social workers to meet the challenges of multiculturalism is highlighted and examples of cross-cultural training models are provided. Implications of multiculturalism for clinical practice and policy development are discussed.