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April 2024Vol. 25, No. 3Barriers Facing Providers of Culturally Responsive Services

The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) published a brief highlighting the barriers faced by community organizations that are working to provide antiracist, culturally responsive, and strengths-based supports to children and families. Culture Is Healing: Removing the Barriers Facing Providers of Culturally Responsive Services examines providers in nine states: Arizona, California, Florida, Hawai'i, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington. CSSP interviewed service providers, which included a mix of those directly involved with the child welfare system and those who were not.  

From these interviews, CSSP had five main findings:

  • Communities need culturally rooted services because they face intergenerational trauma from racism, cultural stigma, and systemic neglect.
  • Providers regard attentiveness to culture as important for program success.
  • Providers struggle to navigate restrictive evidence-based requirements.
  • Evaluators who are unfamiliar with the community can lead to culturally inappropriate evaluations.
  • Excessive state requirements and bureaucracy harm providers' ability to offer services.

Policymakers can also find recommended actions to invest in the development and evaluation of culturally responsive services, increase support for culturally responsive services, and improve partnerships with providers. Some of the recommendations include the following:

  • Engage community members to define and identify promising practices using community-defined evidence.
  • Provide longer-term flexible funding for general operating support.
  • Foster more cooperative relationships with community-based organizations and reduce administrative barriers.

An accompanying webinar is also available. The 90-minute webinar features a discussion with leaders from community service providers in three states about the barriers they face, such as the state and federal funds being tied to certain evidence criteria and the challenges of building evidence and working within the restrictions of "evidence-based" standards.

Related item: To learn more about how culture can be a protective factor, read the Associate Commissioner's message from April 2023, which references the guide Culture Is Prevention: We Are All Connected. The guide from the Tribal Information Exchange highlights how traditional tribal practices and cultural values can be used to create a more holistic approach to prevention. It also provides examples of successful prevention programs that use cultural components.