October 19, 2020

Cultural Competence

update

Written by Genee Francis

As WinShape is moving towards 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 our WinShape children remain in survival mode from their trauma, and their survival often manifests in emotional instability or inappropriate conduct.  The source of these emotional or 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 could also be triggering.  One way to mitigate these occurrences of trauma responses triggered by a caregiver is for us to become multi-culturally competent.

For our purposes, the term “caregiver” includes house parents, human service professionals, case workers, therapists, or any other support staff that cares for the wellbeing of the children that 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 address the core issue(s) of a child effectively.  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 towards Cultural Competence, it is recommended that one adopt a Multicultural Care Perspective.  There are 5 steps towards this perspective shift that include:

  1. 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.
  2. 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, haircare, communication practices, etc.   This humble posture also includes acknowledging when your words, assumptions, and behavior are culturally insensitive.
  3. 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 of 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 miscategorize the problem, or to devalue the child’s experiences.
  4. Practice Broaching. Broaching refers to talking about a sensitive or difficult topic. Broaching 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)”.
  5. Copy Jesus’ example. The bible provides instructions on how Christians should live in community with one another. The verse in 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 others.

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.   Let us work towards 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.

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.  We love and provide care for others, not because of some personal benefit to us, but because all people are made in the image of God.  Let’s be good stewards over the children that God has entrusted in the care of WinShape Homes.  Let us partner in their journey towards healing by learning about the cultures within our homes and serving our children with humility and respect for diversity.

Unity and Diversity in the Body

1 Corinthians 12:12-30

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 byone 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.

 

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