Department of Social Work


Prepared by Priscilla A. Day, MSW, Ed.D.

Table of Contents

*Definitions/Cultural Competence Continuum
*Organizational Cultural Competence
*Assessing Individual Cultural Competence
*Planning for Cultural Competence
*Organizational Actions Towards Cultural Competence


Culturally Competent Examples of:

*Choosing a Cultural Consultant
*Board Policy Statement
*Job Description
*Interview Questions
*Employee Retention



A Culturally Competent System of Care acknowledges and incorporates -at all levels- the importance of culture, the assessment of cross-cultural relations, vigilance towards the dynamics that result from cultural differences, the expansion of cultural knowledge, and the adaptation of services to meet culturally-unique needs.

Cultural competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals and enable that system, agency, or those professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.

Culture implies the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of a racial, ethnic, religious, or social group.

Competence implieshaving the capacity to function effectively.

*Cultural competence is a developmental process and may be viewed as a goal toward which agencies can strive.

The Cultural Competence Continuum

Cultural Destructiveness
Cultural Incapacity
Cultural Blindness
Cultural Pre-Competence
Cultural Competence
Cultural Proficiency

Planning for Cultural Competence

Assessing the Environment
Developing Support
Resource Development
Leadership Development
Mission and Action

Adapted from: "Toward a Culturally Competent System of Care" ,T. Cross, B. Bazron, K. Dennis, M. Isaacs March 1989




~Values diversity
~Engages in cultural self assessment
~Manages dynamics of difference (conflict resolution, respect for diverse opinion)

~Institutionalization of cultural knowledge and practice

Adaption to diversity:

Policies Structure
Values Service





~Agency Standards
~Mission Statement 
~Cultural Competence Policy Statement
~Job Qualifications 
~Interview Questions
~Culturally Competent Evaluation


~Community Advisory Committee
~Review Procedures (recruitmt/staff)
~Cultural Consultants
~Cultural Plans (training)
~Cultural Coordinator
~Facility/Decor (multi-cultural)

ATTITUDE (values):

~Self Assessment
~Increased Contact With Healthy Community Members
~Normalize Conversation


~Extended Family Support
~Identity Enhancement
~Values Clarification 
~Culturally Relevant Assessment ~Cultural Mapping (person in the environment)

Adapted from National Indian Child Welfare Association, (NICWA) 1993



Practitioner Characteristics :
-commitment to provide culturally competent care
-awareness and acceptance of cultural differences
-awareness of own cultural values
-understanding "dynamics of difference"
-basic knowledge of the client's culture
-knowledge of the client's environment
-ability to adapt practice skills to fit cultural context

Attributes/Knowledge/Skills Necessary To Develop Cultural Competency:
-genuineness, accurate empathy, nonpossessive warmth and a capacity to respond flexibly to a range of possible solutions
-acceptance of ethnic differences between people
-willingness to work with clients of different ethnic groups
-articulation/clarification of the worker's personal values, stereotypes, and biases about their own and other’s ethnicity/social class
-personal commitment to change racism and poverty
-resolution of feelings about one's own professional image in a field that systematically oppressed and may exclude people of color
-of culture (history, values, traditions, family systems, artistic expressions) of cultural group
-knowledge of the impact of class and race on behavior, attitudes, and values
-knowledge of help seeking behaviors of clients
-knowledge of role of language, speech patterns, and communication styles
-knowledge of the impact of social service policies on clients
-knowledge of resources that can be utilized and how to access them
-recognition of the ways that professional values may conflict with or accommodate the needs of minority clients
-knowledge of power relationships within the community, agency, or institution and their impact on client

-techniques for learning about culture
-ability to communicate accurate information on behalf of client
-ability to openly discuss racial differences and respond to culturally based cues
-ability to assess the meaning ethnicity has for individual clients
-ability to differentiate between the symptoms of intrapsychic stress and stress arising from the social structure
-interviewing techniques that are culturally sensitive
-ability to utilize the concepts of empowerment on behalf of the client and community
-ability to recognize and combat racism, racial stereotypes, and myths in individuals and institutions
-ability to evaluate new techniques, research, and knowledge as to it's validity and applicability in working with people of color

How to do this-
*Skills and Knowledge are gained through education, training, practice and self reflection.
*Personal attributes can be developed through exposure to the positive aspects of minority cultures.
*Knowledge and skill must be coupled with a willingness to let clients determine their own future.

Adapted from: "Toward a Culturally Competent System of Care" T. Cross, B. Bazron, K. Dennis, M. Isaacs March 1989



1) Review your mission statement (involve people of color in the development of the statement).
2) Embrace empowerment models- giving responsibility out - as an organizational goal.
3) Systematically review services: Are we serving people of color? How well? Keep updated on numbers of people of color served; solicit input from minority organizations regarding needs of communities.
4) Assess key implementers (leaders such as CEO, Executive Director, etc.) regarding: bias, cultural competence in their performance reviews.
5) Be informed about the range of attitudes and values regarding difference in the community-communities of color and the mainstream. (Ex: there are over 470 American Indian publications currently in the U.S.)
6) Have a policy regarding resolution of conflicts involving cultural issues.
7) Establish direct access to advisors: “cultural consultants” , key informants from diverse ethnic communities.
8) Make sure all staff get ongoing cultural competence training specifically geared for their level of competence.
9) Have available access to services in other languages and sign language interpreters.
10) Commit resources to culturally-specific services.
11) Maintain data about communities of color you serve.
12) Foster development of new, innovative, culturally appropriate services (informed by research/data).
13) Adjust the composition of your advisory committees, boards, etc., to reflect your client group, not just the general population ratio.
14) Have written policies on hiring people of color.
15) Be open to feedback from clients of color and willing to adapt services as needed.

Terry Cross, Executive Director, 1993 
Northwest Indian Child Welfare Association, Inc.



These can be helpful guidelines when choosing a cultural consultant for your organization: 
*(This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but rather a place to begin when considering finding someone to work with you.)

~COMMUNITY RECOGNITION: Are they well known and respected in their community of color?

~COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Do they participate in social events, serve on boards, parent committees, and other community activities in their community?

~ADVANCED IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT: Are they comfortable with themselves as a person of color? Do they approach cross cultural situations positively?

~SUB-GROUP DIVERSITY AWARENESS AND SENSITIVITY: Do they know area sub-groups within their community of color? Are they able to bridge between groups effectively?~ARTICULATE IN AT LEAST TWO WORLD VIEWS: Can they bridge effectively between groups?

-Are they familiar with the history and contemporary issues in their culture? 
-Are they articulate about current structures, practices, and important players in social services in their cultural community?
-Are they familiar with the unique mental health issues, healing practices, world view, etc. (bonding, extended family, cultural identity) of their culture?

~KNOWLEDGE AND ABILITY TO MANAGE DYNAMICS OF DIFFERENCE: Do they effectively deal with bias, ethnocentrism, bigotry, conflict resolution in a constructive manner to facilitate understanding and growth?

Adapted from NICWA




The Board of Directors of "Any Child" Center for Children, in recognition of the growing diversity in the population of children needing treatment services, seeks to create and maintain a culturally responsive helping environment, and environment capable of comprehensively addressing the unique needs of children of color.Children of color have historically been under referred to treatment and specifically, to "Any Child" Center. It is the responsibility of "Any Child" Center to not only make its services accessible to all, but to affirm by policy and action its commitment to children of all cultures.

It is the policy of "Any Child" Center to develop and maintain:~links with key referral sources in our state's communities of color~standards for providing services to ethnically, culturally diverse children~a culturally competent work force, reflective of the cultural diversity of the service population~intake procedures, treatment planning, and therapeutic interventions which recognize, enhance and strengthen cultural identity, dignity, and esteem~a treatment milieu in which racism, stereotyping, bigotry and prejudices are inappropriate and not tolerated.

From: People of Color Leadership Institute




1. Identify ethnic publications, radio stations and cable T.V. channels for each of the cultural groups you wish to target. Actively use various media for advertising positions.
2. When developing job descriptions, include cultural competence as a qualification for the position.
~awareness of cultural values and beliefs
~willingness to be flexible and examine own cultural biases
~ability to communicate with clients in their native language or dialect
3. Identify and contact different ethnic organizations. Mail specific job postings and follow up with a telephone call.
4. Utilize current staff of color to assist in recruitment activities.
5. Develop and maintain a positive working relationship with undergraduate and graduate schools of social work. Serve as a field placement for students to expose students of color to agency.
6. Participate in career day programs.
7. Organize and host professional receptions for professional of color to familiarize potential candidates with the agency.
8. Identify key organizations, institutions (churches) and leaders in communities of color who can assist in recruitment.
Adapted from: 
"Toward a Culturally Competent System of Care" ,T. Cross, B. Bazron, K. Dennis, M. Isaacs


* Ensures that cultural issues are addressed in case plans.
* Maintains relationships with cultural consultants.
* Provides services to enhance the cultural identity and group esteem of clients.

* Seeks input from cultural groups and specialists to guide service planning.
*Interacts with formal and informal helping resources in various cultural communities.

Adapted from: Terry Cross NICWA 1992


This job will require interaction with people who are of diverse cultural backgrounds. Describe a time when you have encouraged this and how you handled it.
What is the worst cross-cultural blunder you have committed? What would you do differently today?
Describe a time when you were required to work with a multicultural group of people to bring out divergent opinions and state a consensus. Did you agree with the consensus?
If not, what did you do about it?
Describe a cross-cultural problem which you solved on your last or current job and how you arrived at the solution.

~Pay attention to the unique needs of culturally diverse staff.
~ Develop opportunities for upward mobility, skill enhancement and promotions.
~ Provide culturally sensitive training activities for all staff and management. Training should focus on developing cultural knowledge and the function of culture in a person's life.
~ Conduct a comprehensive orientation on the agency's mission, services and resources, training and educational opportunities, and professional development.
~ Encourage and support the development of support/issues groups for culturally diverse staff.
~ Adjust leave time to accommodate cultural differences in holidays or important community events.
~ Adapt the physical environment to include cultural artwork, pictures, artifacts to demonstrate agency concern and commitment to diversity.
~ Host luncheons, celebrations to acknowledge cultural holidays or events. Include ethnic foods and decor.
~ Provide information to culturally diverse staff on the formal and informal politics of the work place, and agency communication styles.
~Develop a mentor program to assist new staff.

Adapted from: Terry Cross NICWA 1990

UMD Social Work Department

220 Bohannon Hall
1207 Ordean Court
Duluth, MN 55812

(218) 726-8497
1 (888) 534-9734

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