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Cultural Competency within Systems of Care

What is Culture?
Culture refers to the special background or characteristics which each person possesses.  Culture can include race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, demographics (urban vs. rural) and can even include economics (the culture of poverty).  Culture is also the shared values, traditions, norms, customs, arts, history, folklore and institutions of a group of people or individual.

What is Diversity?
Diversity refers to all the ways that we are both similar and different.  Diversity encompasses more than race and gender to include all those differences that make us unique.  The differences matter, especially the ones that may not matter to you, but may matter to someone else, like your consumer.

What is Cultural Competency?
Cultural Competency refers to the process by which individuals and systems respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, languages, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, religions and other diversity factors in a manner that recognizes, affirms and values the worth of individuals, families and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each.

Operationally defined, SOC Cultural Competence is the integration of knowledge about individuals, families and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services, thereby producing better outcomes.  To start to become culturally competent you should have an understanding of these qualities:

  • I acknowledge my personal values, biases, assumptions, and stereotypes in the workplace and private life.
  • I am aware of my own cultural identities and recognize how culture has impacted my personal interactions.
  • I can appreciate how diversity has benefited and enriched my life's experiences.
  • I recognize my own privileges and am able to articulate areas of disadvantages.
  • I am aware of my own developmental stage and am constantly working towards improvement.
  • I have knowledge of my personal diversity issues and am able to resist "getting hooked" by inflammatory statements or behavior.
  • I am comfortable being with members of groups different from my own.
  • I am able to recognize different points of view, behaviors, values, and goals both with consumers and co-workers.
  • I am comfortable communicating about diversity.
  • I am able to be flexible, non-judgmental, and tolerant of ambiguity, both with consumers and co-workers.

Until recently, throughout this nation, most children living with serious emotional disturbance have not received clinically, socially or culturally competent care.  By being culturally competent we can help the child, youth and family - no matter how difficult their disability - access quality services within the context of their home and community.

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