Cultural Competency ~ Part Two: The Role of the Adoption Agency

This is the second of a three-part blog post related to Cultural Competency.

Adoption STAR believes that a culturally competent organization is not one that just talks it up, holds cultural diversity trainings here or there, but rather lives it, believes it, and continuously evaluates it.

Below are ten specific responsibilities for agencies to achieve cultural competency. When Adoption STAR speaks at conferences, they detail how agencies can develop internal cultural continuity plans.

Adoption STAR coins the following 10 responsibilities as “Agency Flash Cards”:

  1. Staff is representative of the culture at all levels of the organization.
  2. Program procedures and policies are developed in the cultural context, i.e., value systems,family definitions and traditions, gender and age, etc.
  3. Development of a collaborative network is always in play to build relationships with community organizations and natural supports.
  4. Acknowledge reciprocal nature of relationships by gathering information from the community. (It is always important to remember to give something back. Non-profits can give to other community non-profits.)
  5. Programs exemplify cultural preservation and celebration.
  6. Language translation services are provided, particularly in assisting and advocating for families whose first and/or primary language is not English.
  7. Empowerment practice and respect is carried throughout the organization.
  8. Cultural competency educational opportunities are embedded throughout each year.
  9. Administration has an open door policy to discuss, brainstorm and further this mission.
  10. Policy statements are in place regarding cultural competency as a whole organization, regarding transracial adoption and regarding the agency’s philosophy related to child placement. (This is not the agency’s mission or vision statement.)

Example of policy statements:

Organizational cultural competency statement:

Adoption STAR values diversity in our employee group, our board, and our clients and sees diversity as a key component to success. Adoption STAR believes it is important to be “culturally competent.” We have a three-pronged approach to being a culturally competent organization.

First, Adoption STAR defines cultural competence as the ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures while being aware of one’s own cultural analysis. While many will look at the term specific to race, Adoption STAR extends cultural competence to include a respect for people of all cultures, languages, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, and sexual orientations.

Second, knowing that our respective similarities far outweigh our differences, we strive to emphasize the bonds we all share as people. At the same time, we seek to understand and appreciate those special attributes that make each person unique. These differences include such things as age, ethnicity and culture, physical and mental talents or disabilities, economic position, education, gender, lifestyle, religious beliefs, etc. Adoption STAR prides itself on diverse and talented employees who provide the services we deliver to our clients each day.

Third, effectively managing cultural competency is important in sustaining a viable and successful Agency. Adoption STAR is committed to cultural competency and continuity by recognizing and respecting similarities and differences in our employees, our board, and our clients, and seeing that they are used as a resource in our day to day operations and our strategic considerations. Employees contribute to managing cultural competency by being open to differences in people, not making assumptions in the treatment of differences – avoiding inappropriate comments or humor, particularly that of an ethnic or sexual nature, and making it known to others that each of us values diversity. Every employee is required to take personal responsibility for ensuring that his/her daily actions and behaviors reflect this policy. Additionally during performance reviews, cultural competency is rated and discussed.

Organization policy statement regarding transracial adoption:

If the prospective adoptive applicant(s) indicates they are open to adopting a child outside of the applicant(s) race and culture, The Agency will consider the applicant(s) for all children of color, not just for bi-racial children or children of mixed race.

Organization policy statement regarding child placement:

The Agency’s philosophy is to work in the best interest of children and to find forever families for children, not children for families. It is an important distinction. The applicant(s) do not pay The Agency to find a baby/child. The Agency’s role is to provide the support, training, advocacy and resources that lead to placement opportunities for applicants, but at no time guarantees a placement of a child.

Part Three will focus on the Role of the Adoptive Family.

Part One: Creating a Cultural Continuity Plan for Our Children

Read More on What is Happening at Adoption STAR: Our Calendar of Events for 2013