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Cultural Sensitivity in the Context of Cultural Humility  

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

Cultural Competence  

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, sometimes referred to as cultural competency, ethnic competence, cross-cultural competence, or multicultural competence, has become an essential element of social work at every level of the field, from direct practice to social policy. The history, literature, policy developments, controversies, and implications of cultural competence are discussed. The evolution of cultural competence and its role in social work is examined and summarized in this entry.

Article

Multiculturalism  

Othelia Eun-Kyoung Lee and Ruth G. McRoy

We define 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 gain more knowledge about multicultural communities is highlighted and examples are provided of specific cross-cultural training models. Implications of multiculturalism for clinical practice and policy development are discussed.

Article

Social Work Education for Macro Practice  

Michael P. Dentato

The profession of social work is based in a rich history of macro practice and the promotion of social justice for all diverse communities. Over the years, while the field of social work education has shifted its focus between macro and micro frameworks, there is a continued resurgence of efforts promoting the integration of mezzo- and macro-practice content within social work curricula and field placement experiences across degree programs. In that regard, social work students must be adequately trained in macro-practice theory, interventions, assessment, and evaluation, as well as they must understand its unique intersection with mezzo and micro frameworks. Additionally, to effectively serve diverse populations, macro social work students must raise consciousness, increase self-awareness, and continually practice through the lens of cultural humility. Ultimately, the effective preparation and readiness of social work students for direct macro practice in fields such as program management, leadership, fundraising, advocacy, community organizing, and policy practice remains essential and understudied.

Article

Religious Fundamentalist Families in School Social Work  

Jennifer Yates

This article describes issues related to culturally competent social work practice with religiously fundamentalist families in public school settings. It addresses the history of religious fundamentalist identities, the complexity inherent in such identities, and the nature of fundamentalism. A review of issues related to culturally competent practice in educational settings is offered. Recommendations informed by spiritually sensitive and strength-based approaches are discussed. Challenges to working effectively with religiously conservative and fundamentalist families in educational settings are also explored. Emphasis is placed upon the practitioner’s role in developing spirituality-sensitive therapeutic relationships by improving religious literacy, developing enhanced self-awareness, and approaching clients from a perspective of cultural humility and a lens of intersectionality.