Group Care Foster Care

Cultural Competency

Genee Francis

As WinShape places an even greater emphasis on creating a culture of diversity, equity and belonging, my heart is focused on how we — as servants within WinShape Homes — are called to respond.

WinShape Homes serves children that derive from diverse upbringings, ethnicities, socioeconomic realities, and educational backgrounds. The children within our homes are trauma survivors, and oftentimes the trauma suffered is foreign to all of us. Many of the children in our care remain in survival mode from their trauma, which often manifests as emotional instability or inappropriate conduct.

“The children within our homes are trauma survivors, and oftentimes the trauma suffered is foreign to all of us. Many of the children in our care remain in survival mode from their trauma”

The source of these emotional and behavioral responses is often the trauma itself. However, there are times that we, as caregivers, unknowingly trigger a trauma response. Forms of communication or discipline can be triggering. Lack of regard for food preferences, holiday observances, or culture representation can also be triggering. One way to mitigate these occurrences of trauma responses is to become multi-culturally competent.

For our purposes, the term “caregiver” includes house parents, human service professionals, case workers, therapists, and any other support staff that care for the well-being of the children we serve.

The term “cultural competence” refers to the ability to readily acknowledge and address the cultural differences between a caregiver and a child. It includes the recognition that culture plays a large and complex role in the life of a child. It is understanding that culture can be directly related to problems that may surface.

A person who is culturally competent is more likely to effectively address the core issues of a child. Without cultural competency, a child can feel unheard, unimportant, misunderstood, or devalued. These feelings can turn into an identity crisis, a compromised self-image, further mental health issues, inferiority complexes, or behavioral challenges.

To journey toward cultural competence, it is recommended that one adopt a multi-cultural care perspective. There are five steps toward this perspective shift that include:

Pray and ask God for an open heart and a humble attitude.

We are to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Gentleness and humility are key in developing a genuine relationship with a child. If a caregiver is going to be open to integrating a child’s culture into the household or therapeutic/case management practice, openness and humility are essential qualities that one should possess.

Take a humble posture of learning.

Proverbs 18:15 advises, “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Actively seek facts to enhance your individual understanding of the child’s cultural context. This includes researching cultural history, current trends, holidays, hair care, and communication practices, among others. This humble posture also includes acknowledging when your words, assumptions, and behavior are culturally insensitive.

Be aware of your own cultural biases.

Lamentations 3:40 reminds us, “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” Examine yourself for any arrogance or superiority complexes that may interfere with adapting your caregiving approach to the child’s needs. A person who is culturally competent is less likely to mis-categorize the problem or devalue the child’s experiences.

Practice broaching.

Broaching refers to talking about a sensitive or difficult topic, and it requires gentleness and wisdom. Broaching necessitates one to fight through feelings of discomfort or uneasiness. One may have to broach a subject when assessing how difficult cultural issues, such as race or disability, might influence a child’s everyday life. Broaching is possible if we allow the Lord to lead. “The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Copy Jesus’ example.

The bible provides instructions on how Christians should live in community with one another. 1 Peter 3:8 reads, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” Diversity draws attention to the truth of God’s glory in His plan to create a culturally diverse community of faith that is unified by the gospel. Each day, learn more about who Jesus is and how He considers others and demonstrates love and care for them.

When caring for a child that derives from a race/culture that differs from the caregiver, do not allow culture to serve as the elephant in the room. The culture elephant can become the source of collision and confusion for the child. Work toward reverently confronting the elephant in an effort to become more culturally competent. Let us grow in our awareness of how culture shapes us and those around us. Let us strive to close gaps by acknowledging the differences, asking questions, and showing respect for the differences.

“Work toward reverently confronting the elephant in an effort to become more culturally competent.”

For Christians, being culturally competent is not just a good idea; it is a Biblical mandate. Cultural competency shows Christlikeness and demonstrates Christ in action. Christ did not just associate himself with those who were similar to Him (religious types, Jews, or carpenters); instead, he loved many people who came from very diverse backgrounds.

We at WinShape Homes have the opportunity to image Christ in our work with individuals who might be different from us, and we have the opportunity to love and provide care for others — not because of personal benefit to us, but because all people are made in the image of God.

1 Corinthians 12:12-30 (paraphrased)

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many…But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be…But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other…If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”