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July/August 2008Vol. 9, No. 6Collaboration Leads to Culturally Responsive Curriculum

A unique international collaboration has produced a culturally responsive training curriculum for child welfare professionals working with Latino children and families in Illinois. The Loyola University Chicago School of Social work teamed with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Latino Consortium, and the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago to implement the project "Culturally Responsive Child Welfare Practice With Latino Children and Families: A Child Welfare Staff Training Model."

Project staff developed a curriculum that was used to train child welfare professionals in Chicago and then throughout the State, with members of the Latino Consortium serving as trainers. The training focused on strengths-based, culturally competent practice, addressing such issues as:

  • Federal and State mandates affecting child welfare practice with Latino families
  • Relevant Latino cultural factors
  • Risk and protective factors
  • Communication patterns
  • Migratory experiences
  • The various legal status classifications of immigrants
  • Acculturation stress and the assimilation process
  • Traditional help-seeking behaviors

The curriculum also included a detailed case study for discussion and analysis. All of the materials were designed to help workers focus on family and community strengths within the cultural framework of their client.

To reach the maximum number of child welfare professionals, several 2-day "train the trainer" sessions were held. By the third year of the project, 766 public and private child welfare staff and court personnel had been trained. Evaluations found that participants showed a significant gain in knowledge about topics covered by the curriculum. When asked about the most useful aspects of the training, participants cited the material on immigration status, legal mandates, cultural differences, linguistic issues, demographics, and family stresses related to migration.

The project partnership led to a number of other positive developments:

  • Loyola University developed a migration studies specialization within the social work curriculum, and much of the course material was developed as part of the project.
  • In 2007, the project partnered with American Humane to host an international roundtable, "Migration as a Critical Issue for Child Welfare: A Transnational Policy and Research Forum."
  • A special issue of Protecting Children was published, based on the manuscript of the roundtable.
  • The roundtable led to the formation of the Migration and Child Welfare National Network.
  • The project's collaboration with Iberoamericana University in Mexico resulted in student exchange programs between Iberoamericana and Loyola.
  • An educational video was produced in Spanish with the Mexican Consulate General of Chicago to educate recent Mexican immigrants about the child welfare system, their legal rights, and services offered by their consulates.
  • A number of journal articles and conference presentations were developed by project staff.

Many of these developments will have a long-lasting impact on the training of child welfare professionals in Illinois and, ultimately, on the services that Latino families and children receive.

For more information, please contact the principal investigator:
Dr. Maria Vidal de Haymes
Loyola University School of Social Work
6525 N. Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL 60626

Culturally Responsive Child Welfare Practice With Latino Children and Families: A Child Welfare Staff Training Model is funded under the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CT0131, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Field Initiated Training Projects for Effective Child Welfare Practice With Hispanic Children and Families. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from Children's Bureau site visits.