Cultural Considerations

mother and son pictureEncircling our practice shift to enhance our services for kids is a broad request from families to be more culturally competent in our responses.  DV Programs are being challenged to consider the unique needs of families as they ask us for family and culturally specific responses. As we come across diverse opinions, it becomes important for us to understand how and in what ways culture shapes individuals, families and communities and how they in turn shape culture. Therefore, if our goal is to ensure that victims are able to make the best decisions for the best outcomes in their attempts to live violence free lives it is important to understand how culture shapes:

  • An individual’s experience of violence and the effects on children and youth
  • Whether perpetrators accept responsibility
  • Whether services are equally accessible to all
  • Our own responses within the culture of the systems and organizations in which we work

This may look like a mother asking us to find help for her children’s father because she is not interested in separating her family.  It could be providing educational and community support advocacy for a child with disabilities well beyond the scope of domestic violence services. This could mean making intentional and sustained efforts to have culturally specific food, household items or personal care products available in shelters. On a larger scope, this could be taking on a project to make physical space and programming accessible to people with disabilities. Or, planning and creating private transitional housing opportunities or home visiting programs for families because short term communal shelter living situations are stressful and culturally unsuitable.

For more information and resources on working with culturally diverse families contact:

Use these Questions to revisit Cultural Considerations:

  • Does our staff represent the diversity of the populations we serve?
  • Are all staff allowed time for personal work and training on developing cultural competency including self examination, understanding power differentials,  accepting different values, and understanding the diversity of the communities accessing our program?
  • Do we ask families how we could better meet their unique needs and consistently incorporate their feedback into our practice?
  • Do all staff understand the history that guides a particular community’s perception of services (e.g. domestic violence shelters, police, child welfare)? Have we taken steps to create plans that will meet the needs of individuals from that community?
  • Have we truly made efforts to collaborate with under-served communities and their representing organizations, learn from them, and create sustainable plans for working together and providing a wider range of culturally sensitive services for families affected by domestic violence?
  • Do we have outreach strategies to reach under-served communities?
  • Do we have a plan for accessing relevant language, deaf and hard of hearing interpreters?
  • Do we avoid asking children to interpret our communications with their mothers?
  • Do we consistently examine our shelter spaces, decorations, food, recreational and printed materials, and personal care items for cultural relevancy?

This information was adapted from Culture Handbook, and reprinted with permission from Futures Without Violence.