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October 2008Vol. 9, No. 8Enhancing Cultural Competency With Hispanic Families

To respond to the unique needs of the growing Hispanic population, partners in two States used Children's Bureau funding to develop a multifaceted cultural competency training for child welfare professionals. The centerpiece of the series is a simulation titled "El Jardin: Latino Families' Experiences With Community-Based Services" and a companion workshop, "Foundations of Effective Child Welfare Practice with Latino Families." The Child Welfare Resource Network at the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare and the Butler Institute for Families at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work used input from a national advisory board as well as local advisory boards in their States to develop cultural competency training geared toward working with the Hispanic population. The training consists of six elements:

  • Pretraining assessment of individual, agency, and community culturally competent practices
  • "El Jardin" community simulation, in which project staff recreate a Hispanic community and ask participants to use props and costumes to experience life from another's perspective
  • A 2-day training, "Core Elements of Culturally Responsive Practice With Latino Families"
  • A half day of collaborative sessions between child welfare supervisors and community partner agencies titled "Building Culturally Responsive Teams"
  • Three advanced topic video productions used for in-service, classroom, or "brown bag" presentations
  • Adaptable curriculum modules that can be incorporated into courses at schools of social work

Trainings were held in seven communities in Kansas and Colorado, involving more than 300 participants. Participants reported that the El Jardin simulation made them more aware of the strengths and needs of the Hispanic population and taught them valuable lessons about how to provide services more effectively. Project staff conducted posttraining surveys and focus groups and used the results to adapt and improve subsequent trainings. Each element of the training involved action planning based on the insights and understandings gained during the event.

Several aspects of the training promote long-term sustainability for the project. Through pretraining assessments of the individual, organization, and community, participants were able to identify systemic policy and practice areas needing improvement as well as tools for self-reflection and dialog upon which to build sustainable partnerships throughout the community. Administrators and staff at all levels are included in the training, and community partners are encouraged to attend as a way to facilitate relationships that can lead to improved service coordination. The curriculum modules allow agencies to incorporate lessons learned into their long-term staff development efforts.

Several resources were developed and disseminated, including a training brochure of effective practices, a resource guide, and a self-reflection assessment for cultural competencies. In addition, elements of the training were adapted for use in selected Kansas university social work classes. A handbook has been created so that individual States wanting to create their own simulation may do so with guidance and support. Project staff hope that these steps will help ensure that the training's positive effects endure long after the project ends.

For more information, contact the principal investigator:
Bethany Roberts, J.D., M.S.W.
The University of Kansas, School of Social Welfare
1545 Lilac Lane
Lawrence, KS 66044

Effective Child Welfare Practice With Hispanic Children and Families is funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90CT0130, 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.