As the world becomes increasingly globalized, cultural competency becomes an integral part of Child and Youth Care practice. How can one best advocate for a client's health if, for instance, their perspective is vastly different from the Western biomedical model that is pervasive in the country they live in?
I think you are asking a profound and very practically important question. No matter how much we get trained in, and believe deeply in the value of, "start where the client is" it is so easy to get trapped into the "but we (or "science") know better" mode in these situations. You may have already read it but, if not, I strongly recommend reading a book called The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman.
It is a true and very powerful story of a little Hmong refugee girl living in Minnesota who is diagnosed with severe epilepsy. I won't tell you more about the book as I think reading it with a fresh eye is important, but the reason I love it as a learning tool is the author is not pushing a political or social viewpoint, nor looking to place "blame" on any of the parties...just a classic look at a clash of cultural beliefs about health issues of a child among many well meaning people. It is a book that had a significant impact on my view of life and our work.
Hi Elika and Frank,
I agree with Frank here that you have asked a very profound question Elika. Thank you for that book recommendation Frank, it looks like a wonderful read indeed (so easy to download to Kindle these days, I now have it ready to read!).
I heard somewhere last year that although cultural competency is essential, we actually need to go deeper than just competency. We need to approach people with intentional curiosity, respect and openness to their experiences. This is discussed in the Child and Youth Care characteristic, 'rituals of encounter', which explains the importance of cultural safety: http://www.cyc-net.org/lz/a-3-2.html (Leon Fulcher). This is why I think the book Frank recommends is very important. We can be as well-meaning as humanly possible, but without a genuine respect for cultural differences, we may end up doing more harm than good.
I find that no matter how much I reflect on this and become increasingly aware, I am still confined by the structures of my dominant society. I work in a public school board here in Ontario, which values a certain type of standardized education and compliance to normative expectations. With so many new-comers and diverse cultures entering our classrooms, I find it challenging to address their mental health needs within such a confined westernized environment.
Thank you for bringing this up for discussion!
Use peacemaking circle to teach and engage and support. They are universal.....found in many African countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan, aboriginal communities (Maori) and FN/M/I in NOrth America. Also as many of us who have done so....when camping we all gather around the glow and circles around the campfire. It is a challenge but circles can be easily placed into the middle of our professional lives and practices.
Little Book of Circle Processes: A New/Old Approach To Peacemaking by Kay Pranis
And this is a little Book! :
"In fact, the word ubuntu is just part of the Zulu phrase "Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu", which literally means that a person is a person through other people.Ubuntu has its roots in humanist African philosophy, where the idea of community is one of the building blocks of society.Sep 28, 2006" from Wikipedia.
Thank you Rick, Nancy, Frank, Elika, for input about a very important and challenging topic for us at the Fairstart Foundation: how to merge cultures in the meeting between professionals and local cultures. And thanks Rick for mentioning Circle processes.
We transform research recommendations into free online training programs for foster families and staff in residential care, refugee camps, etc., and international instructor educations online – so it’s important for us to make programs owned by the users, and not by us.
The way we go about is to apply one basic principle: that every participant and group in program development is an active co-creator of their own care practices, programmes and learning theory.
In two year partnerships with local professional and NGO organisations, we start with a research tour mapping the care strengths in local culture, interviewing leaders, families and children in care.
We then make a version in the local language, including videos
demonstrating local care practices. When caregiver groups are trained
they learn the research based principles of care, but after group
discussions, each of them make an individual workplan between training
sessions: how they will practice at home or at their workplace. For
example, the paper attached describes the Swahili and Kinyarwanda
versions of training that were applied by local instructors in six
So far, these partnerships have yielded 18 language versions, the caregivers of some 30.000 placed children and youth have been trained four month each, and 400 students from various organisations have been educated as instructors, able to use our free online programs to train any number of staff or foster families.
For example, we’ve recently contracted with Greenland government to make Inuit language program versions in a joint development process for teachers, school home staff, and residential care institutions. They will be very different from the African versions, but based on the same principle mentioned by Rick: social circles. In our experience, strong local group processes are vital for any change. Perhaps the Inuit version can be useful in time for Inuit on the other side of Baffin Bay?
At the moment we’re working with representatives from Spain and four Latin American countries for Spanish versions – hope we’ll find ways to do that also.
Looking forward to further comments on intercultural cooperation.
A few years back there was a special issue of Child and Youth Services Vol 33 No 3-4 on Troubling Multi-Culturalism which I edited with J.N.Little. I think it might be worth a read (it was also published as a book in 2014 with Routledge Press).
Gharabaghi's writing at CYC-Net online on whiteness and Child and Youth Care is also worth a look.
(You can find these articles here: http://www.cyc-net.org/cyc-online/jun2017.pdf and here: http://www.cyc-net.org/cyc-online/aug2017.pdf – Eds.)
Scott Kouri and I have also done a bit of writing on settle colonialism (Kouri, S. and Skott-Myhre H.A. (2015) Transversal Mappings of Immanent Subjectivities: Settlers, Friends, and Catastrophe. Settler Colonial Studies. Vol 5. No. 4.).