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Advocacy Tip:  Culturally-Competent Advocacy


While race is an integral component of diversity and is usually what first comes to mind when we hear this word, it’s only one component of many.  To be truly diverse, CASA Advocates should consider all the components of diversity when dealing with families, children, and other parties on their cases.  These can include race/ethnicity, culture, religion, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, education level, military status, type of employment, socioeconomic status, geographic location, and family background.


In order to be become a culturally-competent Advocate, awareness that cultural differences exist is the first step.  Self awareness of one’s own culture and biases is also important.  Prepare yourself early on for cross-cultural communication with families and children and seek additional points of view if necessary.  Knowledge of a child’s particular culture is vital whether it’s from first-hand knowledge or research.  Most importantly, ask the family questions about their background and observe their interactions.  This will provide useful information that will help you advocate for the child.  The benefits of culturally-competent advocacy are numerous.  It takes into account the culture, family history, norms, practices, and traditions of the family as well as the child’s need for an identity and to know where they came from.  This can improve the child’s self-esteem.  Being a culturally-competent Advocate also helps volunteers to identify and distinguish child abuse and neglect from other parental behaviors and methods of discipline that are related to culture.  This can lead to increased relative placements and overall positive outcomes for the children involved.


When advocating for children within particular races and cultures, hair care, skin care, food choices, and disproportionality are important factors to consider.  When working with Native American families, know that the Indian Child Welfare Act governs the removal and placement of Native American children.  This legislation protects and preserves tribal sovereignty and the bond between children and their tribal culture and determines if and when a case should be transferred to tribal court.  Immigrant families often experience barriers with culture, language, nonverbal communication, and loss of educational or job status.  They also may have experienced significant trauma in their home country that led to their entry into the United States.  A culturally-competent Advocate will take this family history into consideration.  Families living in poverty are dealing with hardships and stress in addition to a lack of resources and support.  These are contributing factors in child abuse and neglect.  Currently, more than half of all U.S. children live in nontraditional households.  Across the country, 33% of all births are to unmarried women and half of these mothers cohabitate. 40% of all children will live with cohabitating unmarried adults at some point in their lives.  In addition, 14% of all children live in extended family households, with grandparents acting as the primary caretakers for nearly 2.5 million children. 33% of women and 22% of men with same-sex partners live with children.  Gay and lesbian couples are now the parents of 3.9 million children.  Nontraditional families are becoming the norm rather than the exception, and it’s important to recognize their unique needs. 

Training Questions:

  1. List at least 10 components of diversity.
  2. What is the first step to becoming a culturally-competent child Advocate?
  3. Name the law governing the removal and placement of Native American children?

To receive 1 hour worth of training credit, read the above article and submit answers to the accompanying training questions to Elisabeth Reise at