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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

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.