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Article

Terry L. Cross

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.

Article

Robert M. Ortega and Roxanna Duntley-Matos

In social work practice, our ability to demonstrate culturally responsive service delivery has become a perennial challenge. The rapidly changing landscape in the context of cultural and linguistic diversity makes the urgency of establishing culturally inclusive professional practice more necessary. Evidence of its importance can be found in federal directives, state mandates and professional best practice guidelines that are undergirded by a recognition that responsive practice requires an awareness of cultural influences and manifest differences. This is particularly important as efforts to more fully engage with culturally responsive practice coincides with the push for a higher standard for professional caring to be culturally relevant. From a basic social science-informed perspective, culturally based experiences vary in such profound ways, both within and across groups and communities, that limiting practice to common or core sets of cultural meanings or shared practices for practice purposes merely minimizes the complexity of culture. Cultural experiences are experienced and expressed in complex and dynamic ways, and how cultural differences become framed has major implications for how they become recognized and incorporated into socially just practice. Various approaches to cultural sensitivity and institutional attachments appear in the literature although there is a particular need to uncover the many ways that a focus on cultural competence may impair our ability to embrace the ambiguity and uncertainty of cultural differences. Cultural humility offers a perspective that invites tolerance, inclusion, and diversity while promoting transformation, facilitation, and collaboration in knowledge development and in the search for cultural relevance in its social work application. It is a perspective that ultimately invites the sharing of both social opportunities and social fate, and is at the core of socially just empowerment

Article

Melissa B. Littlefield, Denise McLane-Davison, and Halaevalu F. O. Vakalahi

Mechanisms of oppression that serve to subordinate the strengths, knowledge, experiences, and needs of women in families, communities, and societies to those of men are at the root of gender inequality. Grounded in the strengths perspective of social work, the basic premise of the present discussion emphasizes gender equality as opposed to inequality. At the core of gender equality is the value of womanhood and the need to ensure the health and well-being of women and girls. Women’s participation in different societal domains including economic opportunities, political empowerment, educational attainment, health, and well-being are all impacted by their roles. Thus, structural weaknesses are major barriers for reforming efforts on global gender equality. Challenging traditional notions of gender, which is defined as behavioral, cultural, and social characteristics that are linked to womanhood or manhood, is the basis for achieving gender equality by attending to how these characteristics govern the relationship between women and men and the power differences that impact choices and agency to choose. Further, both equality of opportunity and equality of outcome are imperative for achieving gender equality among women and girls. Although progress has been made toward gender equality for many women, lower income women—as well as women who face social exclusion stemming from their caste, disability, location, ethnicity, and sexual orientation––have not experienced improvements in gender equality to the same extent as other women. Broad outcomes of gender equality around the globe include decreased poverty, increased social and economic justice, and better well-being and empowerment among men and women. Gender equality is a smart tool for economic development because it can remove barriers to access and enhance productivity gains in a competitive world.

Article

Ann Marie Yamada, Lisa Marie Werkmeister Rozas, and Bronwyn Cross-Denny

Intersectionality refers to the intersection of identities that shape an individual’s standing in society. The combining of identities produces distinct life experiences, in part depending on the oppression and privilege associated with each identity. The intersectional approach is an alternative to the cultural competence model that can help social workers better address the unique and complex needs of their diverse clients. This entry provides a general overview of the historical and interdisciplinary roots of intersectionality and addresses its use as a theoretical perspective, methodology, mechanism for social change and social justice, and policy framework in social work. The role of intersectionality in social work policy development, teaching, and research will be presented with consideration of future directions and areas for further development.

Article

Dorie Gilbert and Katarzyna Olcoń

Research indicates that practitioners’ cultural biases are a barrier to effective cross-cultural assessment; thus, social work practitioners must demonstrate the ability to appraise a client’s cultural context in assessing and treating mental health concerns. The Cultural Formulation Interview (CFI) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides practitioners with a standardized cultural assessment method for use in mental health practice. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the CFI with a focus on its four domains: (a) cultural definition of the problem; (b) cultural perception of cause, context, and support; (c) cultural factors affecting self-coping and past help-seeking; and (d) cultural factors affecting current help-seeking. Conceptualizations of mental health and mental illness vary across cultural subgroups, and the nation’s changing demographics underscore the need to give particular attention to how the CFI can be useful for improving cross-cultural assessment with historically excluded or marginalized racial and ethnic groups. The CFI is an important step towards culturally grounded assessments; however, it has several conceptualization and implementation limitations, including its narrow focus on individual-level cultural explanations of distress while the effects of social inequities remain masked. The article concludes with additional considerations for cross-cultural assessment and implications for social work education and practice.

Article

This article defines cultural competence and culturally competent practice and focuses on cultural awareness, knowledge acquisition, and skill development as key components. It traces the historical development of cultural competence in the disciplines of psychology and social work, pointing out how cultural competence has become a professional standard. Cultural competence has also been recognized on the federal and state health and human services levels. Cultural competence is viewed on the practitioner, agency, and community levels as well as the micro, mezzo, and macro dimensions. Among the implications for practice are the issues of cultural competence and cultural competencies, the ethics of cultural competence, social context, and biculturation and multiculturalization. Cultural competence research is briefly surveyed, as is the relationship between cultural competence and critical race theory.

Article

Gina Miranda Samuels

Although the year 2000 marked the first time U.S. citizens were allowed to report more than one race in the Census, multiraciality and multiethnicity are certainly not new in the United States or globally. The history of multiracial America is inextricably linked to its history of immigration, slavery, racism, and the very construction of single-race identities as master statuses during colonialism. Who is multiracial, as well as the idea that such an identity or population can or should exist, is highly complex and has shifted along with societal attitudes and laws governing race identity options and the sanctioning of multiracial families through marriage and adoption. The understanding in the early 21st century of this growing multiracial population is mired in this history, but also idealized as proof of a new and possibly “postrace” America. To examine multiraciality, this entry begins by defining root concepts including race, ethnicity, nationality, and culture to then examine and define multiraciality. This entry will include a brief historical discussion of multiraciality in the United States and will also explore demographic and health trends using such statistics as are available and examine identified risks, disparities, strengths, and resiliencies among this diverse population. Effective and ethical social-work practices with multiracial persons require expansion beyond the black–white dichotomy and monocentric paradigm of race to consider both strengths and vulnerabilities navigated by the increasing number of persons and families who identify as multiracial and multiethnic. Approaches to social work that promote multiracially attuned practices and engagement of the diverse resources for various communities of multiracial persons and families conclude this entry.

Article

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.

Article

The prevalent discourse about Roma community mainly occurs when the media reports “Roma problems.” Homogeneity, nomadism, and assumed innate characteristics (for example, laziness, aggressiveness, and lower intellectual abilities) are the most common myths about them. However, sociology recognizes Roma, Gypsies, Tzigany, Zigeuner, or Gitanos as one of the most oppressed, hated, and discriminated minority in all countries of their residence. This article discusses the multidimensional levels of discrimination of Roma minority from the perspective of their everyday life experience on a personal, cultural, and structural level. As Dominelli, Thompson, and Jones established, those are three crucial dimensions of recognizing the dynamic and rooted nature of discrimination.

Article

Daniel S. Gardner and Caroline Rosenthal Gelman

Minority and immigrant elders constitute a greater proportion of the population than ever before and are the fastest growing segment of the older population. Within these racial and ethnic groups there is considerable variation with regard to age, gender, country of origin, language, religion, education, income, duration of U.S. residency, immigration status, living arrangements, social capital, and access to resources. The authors summarize research on older adults regarding racial and ethnic disparities, barriers to health and social service utilization, and dynamics of family caregiving. Implications are offered for social-work practice, policy, and research.

Article

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.

Article

Rowena Fong, Ruth G. McRoy, Amy Griffin, and Catherine LaBrenz

A history of transracial and intercountry adoptions in the United States is briefly provided as well as highlights trends, demographics, practices, and policies that have evolved as families have become more diverse. The current prevalence of intercountry and transracial adoptions in the United States is examined as well as the impact of policy changes in the United States and abroad on rates of intercountry adoption. Additionally, the challenges that have emerged for children adopted transracially and from abroad, as well as for their adoptive families, are reviewed. These include navigating ethnic and racial identity formation, cultural sensitivity, and challenging behaviors. Finally, future directions for social work practice, research, and policy are explored, and implications are provided for social workers intervening with families who have adopted children transracially or internationally. Specifically, adoption-competent professionals should also integrate cultural humility and competence into their therapeutic work with adoptive children and families. Implications for research in the conclusion focus on expanding prior studies on intercountry and transracial adoptions to incorporate racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in the literature. Policy implications include increasing access and funding for post-adoption services for all adoptive families.

Article

Katharine Briar-Lawson and Toni Naccarato

Over the decades, family services have been one of the overarching features of social work practice, education, and research. Efficacy studies help to reinforce the focus on serving individuals in the contexts of their families and to address intergenerational family systems. Families provide the bulk of services to their members but require tailored resources, effective services, and supports. The growing diversity in families compels more cross-cultural competence, responsive policies, and evidence-based practices. Family service practitioners must increasingly address the social exclusion of many families while integrating economic and employment supports with counseling, skill training, and other interventions.

Article

Susan J. Wells and Geoff Johnson

The true extent of child abuse and neglect is unknown but reports to state agencies indicate over 3 million reports concerning maltreatment of over 6 million children are made each year. Confirmed reports involved over 679,000 children in 2013. Yet, only 32% of the children known to be harmed by maltreatment in the community are investigated by child protective services. The perplexing dilemma in surveillance and service delivery is how to identify those who need help without spuriously including those who do not. This entry focuses on the definition of maltreatment and provides an overview of the history, etiology, and consequences of child abuse and neglect as well as the current trends and dilemmas in the field. To afford some perspective for the reader, some international data and information are provided.