Implications for Administrators and Stakeholders
More than other systems of care principles, achieving cultural and linguistic competence can require a dramatic shift in personal and organizational cultural beliefs, values, policies, and practices. Agency professionals, service recipients, community members, and other child welfare system stakeholders need to assess culturally ineffective practices and outcomes and establish new organizational cultural norms that promote cultural proficiency.
The experiences of the Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care grant communities provide several promising approaches for other communities to consider as they construct systems of care driven frameworks for change:
- Establish baseline knowledge of system performance outcomes related to cultural competence that includes assessment of practice outcomes and agency policies. This information should be shared throughout the service array and with the community.
- Make a comprehensive plan for improved practice related to cultural competence that includes a clear definition of what cultural and linguistic competency is and outlines expectations for cultural proficiency at every level of the system. The plan should be developed in collaboration with agency staff, service providers, family partners, and community members.
- Provide reinforcements and system supports that increase self-awareness, knowledge, and capacity for culturally and linguistically competent practice throughout the system. Reinforcements and supports should include culturally competent program evaluation with dissemination of results throughout the system and community.
"First and foremost, I believe the environment needs to change to encourage caseworkers to challenge their current practice. It needs to start from the top and go down."
–Agency Staff Member
In working with diverse groups, child welfare agencies need to understand how deeply embedded cultural factors have an impact on their organizations, the individuals that work within them, and the families served. Just as the demographic profile of the Nation's communities is changing, so too are the characteristics of child welfare agencies. Promoting culturally competent child welfare systems is vital for responding to the country's evolving demographics and for addressing the factors that contribute to culturally ineffective practice. Child and Family Services Reviews and subsequent State Program Improvement Plans provide an opportunity for States to engage a broad base of stakeholders in making cultural and linguistic competence a central component of child welfare system improvements.
The activities of the communities involved in the Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care demonstration initiative are contributing to greater knowledge about culturally competent child welfare systems. The work of the grant communities provides useful practice-based evidence for other communities interested in using a systems of care framework to transform child welfare systems and improve outcomes.
"What is needed is courageous, strong, sincere, visionary, and accountable leadership that can bring hope and promise and people together to change our institutional inequities and disproportionality."
(Casey Family Programs, 2007, p. 10)