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2009 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 14, No. 3
June 2009

Strengthening Supervision
Tips for Helping Caseworkers Navigate Cultural Differences

Adapted from CASCW, 2009

  • Remind child welfare workers that culture is more than just race: religion, geography, socioeconomic status and many other factors shape who we are. Even someone who looks like us may have a very different culture.
  • Encourage workers to allow parents to provide the narrative of their life: their ethnic roots, social class, language of choice, household composition (use a genogram to capture), and social and community supports.
  • Encourage staff to explore with parents their family values: how children should behave; the relationship of children to parents and grandparents.
  • Discuss with each worker the way culture shapes family strategies for coping with challenges; workers must understand the cultural tradition for responding to a child’s risk-taking behavior.
  • Explore the meaning of sparse verbal interactions both as a parent communication style and as a cultural response to a non-family member.
  • Emphasize the value of empathy: reinforce listening skills.
  • With the worker, discuss how the power inherent in child protection is interpreted by the parents. Is it seen as a threat to their safety as refugees or to their employment? What impact will it have on the respect they are due within the family circle?
  • Consider involving a “cultural liaison” or “family advocate” from the ethnic community to share the content of the intervention; consider the uses and role of interpreters.

Adapted from Connolly, M., Crichton-Hill, Y.& Ward, T. (2008). Families, culture & supervision. Social Work Now.

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