CLC and SS/HS
U.S. student populations are becoming more diverse, reflecting a tapestry of color, culture, language, traditions, beliefs, and practices, rather than sets of disparate cultural groups within the larger dominant culture. Therefore, it important for SS/HS grantees to work toward becoming more culturally and linguistically competent in all aspects of planning, development, implementation, and evaluation. But for this to occur, it is essential that both SS/HS and school leadership champion CLC as a priority. Leadership is where CLC begins, and it is key to how it is sustained.
Create a Safe Climate
To move forward, the first step that individuals in leadership positions should take is to create a “safe” organizational climate, one that is based on trust and mutual respect, for discussing sensitive topics, such as historical trauma, institutional racism, power, prejudice, class, sexual orientation, and privilege. When staff feel comfortable to speak with their leadership and one another about the most sensitive subjects without fear of repercussions, it creates a trusting environment and lays the foundation for continued work. Leaders can foster an environment for honest and open discussion of cultural and linguistic issues by providing opportunities for such dialogues in professional development sessions, forums, regularly scheduled activities, trainings, supervision meetings, and coaching sessions.
Infuse CLC into Organizational Practices
Once the program leadership expressly endorse and encourage an atmosphere of openness and dialogue, other organizational practices should follow. The governing board or administrative structure should strive to create a visionstatement, missionstatement, logic model, and strategic plan that are aligned with and reflect the needs of the diverse community served by the program, and that explicitly state the program’s commitment and the actions it will take to incorporate CLC values, practices, and outcomes at all levels of the organization.
You can conduct individual and organizational CLC assessments to identify and address your own and your staff’s needs and challenges. By engaging in the same self-discovery process that we encourage our partners and the communities we serve to engage in, we can model what is expected from them. To increase the likelihood of success and sustainability, leadership must commit sufficient resources, both human and financial. This also reflects the administration’s commitment to infuse CLC into its practices.
Other ways to incorporate CLC practices into SS/HS grants:
- Create policies and procedures that operationalize CLC in daily work, in such areas as organizational structure (e.g., governance, hiring), planning/design (e.g., logic model, strategic planning), budgeting, practice implementation, and evaluation.
- Write contracts with providers, agencies, and community partners that include specific contractual performance indicators and measures addressing the infusion of CLC into the domains stated above, with incentives and/or penalties to ensure accountability.
- Monitor contracts and sub-contracts regularly to ensure compliance with CLC measures.
- Provide ongoing professional development opportunities to increase and improve the CLC skills and abilities of your administration and staff.
- In performance appraisals, include measures that address CLC implementation in the employee’s daily work, and directly link successful achievement to salary increases and promotions.
Hire Personnel Who Mirror Your Target Community
Families and youth relate to people who look and talk like them, and it sends a message of empowerment to the community when decision-makers reflect the community’s own culture, ethnicity, language, values, and beliefs. Grantees should make efforts to ensure that the composition of their administration, management, and staff proportionately mirror the populations they serve. For example:
- Incorporate criteria within the hiring process to ensure that new personnel proportionally represent the community. Likewise, make sure that your governance board is proportionately representative of your populations of focus.
- Actively recruit job applicants from unserved and underserved communities and “invisible” populations (e.g., homeless youth, LGBTQI2-S1 youth, Urban Indians), to appropriately match and serve the student population.
- Recruit applicants who are bicultural or bilingual, and provide differential pay for bi- or multilingual skills.
- Provide regular CLC professional development opportunities.
- Invest in the future by offering training and job-skill development opportunities, such as internships, rotations, and job shadowing, to diverse, unserved, and underserved students from colleges and universities.
- Seek contracts with providers and community-based organizations who also mirror the populations served and who are trusted by the community.
Collect CLC-related Data
Design your data-collection systems to track CLC-informed data, both quantitative and qualitative, to capture the disparities around behavioral health care for diverse, unserved, underserved, and “invisible” populations. For example:
- Access: Can child- and youth-serving programs be accessed by this population?
- Availability: Do the services and programs exist where the population actually lives?
- Utilization: Are the services and programs being utilized? If not, why not? Are they inappropriate for this community? Do they fail to address the community’s needs? Do they not reflect the world view, values, beliefs, traditions, and rituals of this population?
- Quality: Are the programs and services effective with this population? Is there a high level of satisfaction with the programs and services?
- Outcomes: Do the programs and services produce the outcomes that the youth and families want? Do they produce the results that the SS/HS program wants?
The quantitative data you might collect include the following:
- Ethnicity/race self-identification data that go beyond U.S. Census designations and are broken down by nationality, such as Salvadoran, Mexican, Honduran, and Spanish, instead the generic designation of Hispanic/Latino
- Socio-economic status
- Generation in the United States (as one measure of acculturation)
- Language facility (i.e., the language they feel most comfortable speaking)
- Zip code (which allows you to look at geographic concentrations of need)
Focus groups are a good source of qualitative data, for example:
- The priority needs from the perspective of families and the community
- Where the centers of commerce and activity are, which will help you focus your outreach efforts
- The names of community and cultural leaders who are trusted by families and the community
Establish a Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Process
An additional goal of CLC is to address the disproportions that exist among child-serving agencies, such as juvenile justice, child welfare, and education, and effect change to correct them. CQI is a joint process that includes evaluators, family members, youth, providers, cultural leaders, CLC experts, and management. The intent of the CQI process is to use the data you gather on access, availability, utilization, quality, and outcomes to make improvements and implement strategies that address the disparities and disproportions the data are identifying.
What CLC Is Not
It is important to remember that being culturally and linguistically competent is not simply a matter of being “politically correct.” CLC is about being respectful to all people and being mindful of and sensitive to “differences” in race, ethnicity, language, culture, sexual orientation, and disability status. In examining what CLC practices and strategies look like, it is helpful to also keep in mind what CLC is not.
The following practices alone do not exemplify CLC:
- A translated brochure
- Literature with faces of children of different colors
- Serving ethnic food or playing ethnic music in class or at trainings or gatherings
- A bilingual receptionist or maintenance worker who is asked to interpret when needed
Other practices that do not demonstrate CLC:
- Choosing a youth of color to make a presentation merely because he or she is a youth of color.
- Focusing CLC efforts solely on ethnic/racial groups. Culture has many facets beyond race and ethnicity.
- Thinking of CLC as an “add on” or “overlay.” CLC must be fully integrated into your program efforts.
- A goal of “color blindness.” There is no such thing!
- Having a person of color on an advisory board as the token representative of his or her community. One person cannot represent an entire diverse community and should not be expected to try.
- Assuming that a staff member of color is culturally or linguistically competent. This places an unfair burden on that person, who must now live up to your false expectations.
- Assigning all work associated with CLC to one individual. This relieves everyone else of ownership, responsibility, and accountability, and reduces the likelihood of system infusion, which ultimately will undermine the sustainability of your CLC efforts.
- Collecting data on ethnic/racial populations and then not using your data to address and eliminate disparities and address disproportions.
- Stereotyping individuals because they belong to a particular ethnic/racial group, have a lower socio-economic status, or are part of an unserved, underserved, or “invisible” population. Stereotypes are overly simplistic and usually emphasize the more negative aspects of particularly groups. The knowledge of those outside these groups is usually limited and often incorrect.
- Ignoring “youth culture.”
- Being blinded by “western benevolence”—the idea that “we” know what is best for “you” (students, families, the community). The assumption that white/western/middle class values are best and that those who differ from that model should be pitied is an example of the now widely discredited cultural deprivation theory.2
1LGBTQI2-S is the acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, or two-spirit youth.
2This theory posits that the culture of the working class, “regardless of race, gender, and ethnicity, is inherently deficient and different from [that of] the middle class. (Cultural deprivation, p.1) . . . This theory resulted in two solutions: The working class would have to change and become like the middle class culture, or the working class children would have to be compensated for their deficits in attempt to give them equal opportunity to compete with the middle class” (p.12). This once popular theory spawned much controversy and is now considered outdated.