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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

The 2000 census counted 3,406,178 Puerto Ricans living in the United States, bringing the total for those living in Puerto Rico and the United States to 7,333,403 million (U.S. Bureau of Census. (2000). Overview of race and Hispanic origin. We the people: Hispanics in the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office). The label “Puerto Rican” is not a race but a self-identifier. A Puerto Rican might be born in Puerto Rico or in the United States from Puerto Rican parents. A Puerto Rican might be first-, second-, third-, or even fourth-generation in the Unites States or 20th-generation in Puerto Rico. As long as they identify themselves as Puerto Rican, they are Puerto Rican. The label Puerto Rican has many different connotations to both Puerto Ricans and non–Puerto Ricans. For the purpose of this entry, Puerto Ricans, whether born in Puerto Rico or in the United States, are defined as a multiracial and multicultural ethnic group with more than 500 years of history. The discussion in this entry provides a brief overview; for more in-depth reviews please see the following references: (Anderson, R. W. (1965). Party politics in Puerto Rico. Stanmford, CA: Stanford University Press.; Fitzpatrick, J. P. (1987). Puerto Rican Americans: The meaning of migration to the mainland (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall; Lewis, G. K. (1963). Puerto Rico: Freedom and power in the Caribbean. New York: Harper & Row; Morales. (1986). Puerto Rican poverty and migration: We just have to try elsewhere. New York: Praeger).

Article

The profession of social work continues to struggle with the provision of services that must be culturally sensitive to the values and traditions of the people who live in rural neighborhoods and colonias along the U.S.–Mexico border. The diverse populations that live in the border environment are self-reliant and distrust outsiders. This most salient fact creates opportunities for social work programs to adopt the person-in-the-environment approach to assessment. In so doing, the gente (people) in need of services are more apt to feel respected and will facilitate access to their families and communities. The rurality paradigm was developed to provide an understanding of the underlying ideologies of the community first and foremost. Rurality views people’s self-image as constructed by their interactions with each other and the environment. Social work practice in rural areas continues to be at the forefront of both educational and professional concerns. A paradigm shift is advocated to capture the “rurality”- defined lifestyle found along the U.S.–Mexico border of South Texas. This approach provides a more in-depth view of the social interactions necessary for competent, culturally sensitive social work practice.

Article

Samuel S. David, Priscilla Gibson, and Patience Togo Malm

Language mediates every aspect of social work, and the ability to communicate effectively with and about clients is a paramount responsibility that rests with the social worker. This responsibility extends to clients who do not speak, understand, read, or write fluently in the dominant language, either because they speak other languages or because of communication-related disabilities. This category may include individuals with learning disabilities, speech disorders, aphasia, autism spectrum disorders, specific language impairment, and physical impairments that impact language production, among other conditions. Primary concerns include disparities in access to services; the need for training on working with interdisciplinary teams; minimizing bias, micro-aggressions, and stereotyping; and issues related to translation, interpretation, and intercultural communication. In addition to these concerns, linguistically diverse populations are often excluded from research, resulting in gaps in knowledge about their needs. Service accommodations for language minorities tend to focus on translation and interpretation; however, research suggests that social workers also need to understand and guard against unconscious bias, and learn to use affirmative language to support the well-being of clients rather than pathologizing them. Clients with communication disabilities, on the other hand, may have distinct or overlapping needs, and service organizations rarely address the language support needs of these two populations within one unified framework. Service providers may waste precious time and effort navigating multiple, overlapping policy directives. Information on the policy context in the United States and the European Union related to language rights and language access provides a background for this topic.

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.