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Advocacy Tip:  Culturally-Competent Advocacy

As CASA Advocates, you impact children in many areas including medically, educationally, and psychologically.  These areas are vital to each child’s growth and development as well as their overall self-worth and potential to thrive as an independent adult.  The knowledge of what it takes to advocate for these children by integrating diversity and cultural competency into your advocacy efforts is essential.  Ethnic and cultural background influences an individual’s attitude and behaviors.  Each family’s characteristics reflect adaptations to its primary culture, their unique environment, and special needs.  Children are best served by CASA Advocates who are culturally competent and who have personal knowledge of that child’s culture.
Diversity and Race

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.


Becoming Culturally-Competent

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.


Training Questions:

  1. T or F:  Race is the only component of diversity?  Explain why.
  2. What is the first step in becoming a culturally-competent Advocate?
  3. Name 3 benefits to becoming a culturally-competent Advocate.