Cultural competence among social workers and health practitioners refers to the gradual establishment of an individual’s capability to provide quality and safe services to culturally diverse clients. Individuals who become culturally competent gain attributes such as being culturally knowledgeable, culturally sensitive, culturally aware, and culturally skilled. Resultantly, one becomes more culturally sensitive, culturally diverse, and gains the desire to understand a culture in a profound manner (Cai, 2016). Hence, cultural competence fosters the development of better cross-cultural skills and values, resulting in higher performance among social workers.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) (2015) elucidates various standards deemed appropriate for achieving cultural competence. While each indicator is essential for social workers, I find the first three standards crucial to being culturally competent. They lay the foundation for embracing other cultures. For instance, ethics and values are crucial in any field of practice, whether social work or medicine, among others. When a person follows the set principles, it becomes easier to become culturally sensitive. Similarly, self-awareness implies that people understand the importance of their culture and that of others (NASW, 2015). As an African American, I understand the value attached to African American culture. By being conscious of the value of my culture, it makes it possible for me to appreciate and respect the beliefs and practices inherent with diverse cultures in America.
Finally, possessing cross-cultural knowledge refers to awareness of different cultural groups, including their history, division of roles in family units, communication customs and patterns, and spirituality. Possessing this knowledge helps to understand the attitudes of a client better. For instance, by working as a social worker, I have learned how people in various groups, including Native Americans, Asians, and Hispanics, interact. Moreover, I have become more aware of my tendencies to stereotype. As a result, I have managed to give genuine care and concern regarding a client’s problem with time.
Choice Cultural Group: Latino
Over the past decade, Latinos have significantly increased in proportion. As a result, the amount of social work channeled towards this population has increased considerably. In the past year, I have been lucky to interact and serve many Latinos in my social work service. By interacting with individuals from this population, I have come to understand the importance of cultural competence. As Carpenter (2016) informs, culturally competent practice entails focusing on being sensitive to cultural factors that affect clients. As a result, I have learned to be sensitive to cultural variables unique to different cultures, including how various clients took culture influences behaviors and actions.
Herrera-Spinelli (2019) notes that cultural competency entails being aware of the powers, privileges, and oppression present. As a practitioner, it is crucial to monitor and address the power imbalances. In most cases, social workers wield power above their clients. They can influence and change the lives of their clients. For instance, for Latinos, being a minority group is associated with lesser privilege than their white counterparts (Ducklow, 2017). Further, Herrera-Spinelli notes that privilege, competence, and self-awareness are instrumental in addressing power imbalances. Similar to NASW (2015) standards, Herrera-Spinelli recognizes the importance of continuous practice or improving cultural knowledge. Similarly, working with Latinos has enlightened me that cultural competence goes beyond knowledge of privileges, power imbalances, and oppressions and that it requires a social worker to take appropriate actions to mediate the imbalances or oppressions.
Cai, D. (2016). A concept analysis of cultural competence. International Journal of Nursing Sciences, 3(3), 268-273. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijnss.2016.08.002
Ducklow, K. J. (2017). Lessons for social workers: A review of the Latino/a undocumented immigrant experience. Master of Social Work Clinical Research Papers. Sophia, the St. Catherine University. https://sophia.stkate.edu/msw_papers/726
Fitzgerald, E. & Campinha-Bacote, J. (2019). An intersectionality approach to the process of cultural competemility – part II. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 24(2). https://doi.org/10.3912/OJIN.Vol24No02PPT20
Herrera-Spinelli, S. Y. (2019). Examining cultural humility and intersectionality in mental health treatment. Walden Dissertations and Doctoral Studies. Walden University. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=8116&context=dissertations
National Association of Social Workers. (2015). Standards and indicators for cultural competence in social work practice. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=PonPTDEBrn4%3D&portalid=0
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