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Monday, September 14

GROW: Cultural Competency - Not Just for Frontline Practitioners

Adrian Delgado

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From the NASW Code of Ethics

1.05 Cultural Competence and Social Diversity

(c) Social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, and mental or physical disability.

With regards to cultural competency the first question we should ask ourselves is, who benefits from cultural competency? Social workers, professional associations, public/nonprofit agencies, and private/small group practice practitioners should be asking themselves this question each and every day. Taking cultural competency seriously can benefit clients, the community, and enhance utilization for programs. Sometimes the idea of cultural competency is reduced to only a mandated once-a-year online cultural competency training or an in-house four-hour workshop providing relevant but limited information.

The United States Census Bureau provides a wealth of information on the changing demographics of the United States. All of us should consider reviewing the community profiles of our communities where we reside and work.

Over the last decade many textbooks, articles, and position statements have been available for social services administrators, program planners, and frontline social workers to read, reflect on, and integrate into their social work practice. Professional social workers should continually look in the mirror and ask themselves whether they have integrated enough cultural competency literature into their micro/midlevel/macro social work practice.

In my experience the focus has been on frontline workers having the skills and knowledge to integrate cultural competency when working with individuals, families, and communities. In 2015 we need to consider the leadership of foundations, human service organizations, professional associations, as well as schools of social work.

I have been providing human services for over thirty years in the Chicagoland area, and I will share a few recommendations based on my experiences.

Professional social work and allied health associations need to consider whether white privilege exists in their leadership and programming. In 2015 there are many professional associations which social workers can join. Social workers may select an organization based on their field of practice like police social work, schools, employee assistance, healthcare, and so forth. For example, I currently have membership with one of these specialized professional associations, and their leadership lacks diversity and their most recent conferences did not address cultural competency. Many of these allied social work/human service associations need to conduct an internal scan of their organizations and ask themselves, does our leadership reflect the diverse populations we serve? Also, if the organization doesn't have their own standards regarding cultural competency, they should consider integrating the NASW Cultural Competency Standards.

Nonprofit, faith-based, and public service agencieshave an ethical responsibility to consider multicultural leadership and to provide sustainable cultural competency education throughout their organizations. Many organizations do not have specialized training for their intake departments regarding cultural competency. Organizations can start by having a standing committee on cultural competency within their organization. Instead of hiring an external consultant, conduct an internal scan of your minority staff and provide them with funding for training and leadership opportunity to lead a cultural competency committee. Social service agencies need to consider the role of their bilingual social workers. Over the years many have shared the work for one case which may include interpretation, translation, and many follow-up calls. Agencies need to keep in mind the workload.

Small group practice and individual social work practitionersare providing essential services to diverse populations in Illinois. There are many challenges with managing a private or group practice. In my work with the Latino population, I have to review literature on a regular basis. Therefore I review literature/books/articles by Professors Kurt Organista, Celia Falicov, Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, and many others. Integrating evidence-based approaches is necessary for my practice. If independent practitioners and group practices cannot attend a continuing education workshop, they should seek out evidence-based literature from Latino/African, Asian, and First Nation professors.

Over the last fifteen years, I have been lecturing in higher education on intersectionality, race, ethnicity, social welfare policy, and culture. As a social worker, I need to consider the NASW Code of Ethics and Cultural Competency Standards in my role as lecturer, therapist, crisis interventionist, trainer, etc. Ethical and cultural competency dilemmas need to be addressed through the internal policies of organizations, standing committees, clinical supervision, and continuing education programming.

All of us need to look in the mirror and consider who loses if cultural competence is not integrated in our staffing, programming, leadership development, and social work practice. I challenge all students and professionals reading this to develop their personal educational plan for the next year in regards to cultural competency.

Posted on 09/14/15 at 08:00 AM


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