There are nearly 400,000 children in foster care in the United States with diverse cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. Their cultural affiliations regarding race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender identity, sexuality, language, and disability status shape their identities.
Making assumptions, exhibiting bias, or attempting to force assimilation harms children and youth by dismissing or negating significant aspects of themselves. Cultural sensitivity isn’t just a courtesy — it’s necessary to promote the well-being and positive development of children and youth in care. An inclusive and celebratory approach that welcomes diverse identities nurtures security and belonging.
Understanding Cultural Sensitivity
Cultural sensitivity in foster care refers to the awareness, understanding, and respect of different cultural backgrounds and needs of children and youth in care. It involves acknowledging personal biases, educating oneself about different cultures, and adapting care to meet the diverse needs of each child. It’s an approach that positively impacts the emotional and psychological development of children and youth in care.
Understanding Implicit Bias
Many people hold implicit biases — associations that unconsciously affect our attitudes and actions. In child welfare, these biases can negatively impact decision-making, interactions, and outcomes for children and youth from different backgrounds.
By acknowledging implicit biases, caregivers can gain awareness and intentionally counteract them. Ongoing self-reflection, education, and training focused on equity and inclusion promotes culturally competent practice, leading to a more supportive, understanding, and nurturing environment in foster homes.
Best Practices for Cultural Sensitivity in Foster Care
Embracing diversity in foster care involves several best practices. Cultural sensitivity is an ongoing process of learning, understanding, and adapting to meet the needs of children and youth from diverse backgrounds in the foster care system.
- Educate Yourself and Staff: Learn about the cultures, traditions, and backgrounds of the children in your care, including understanding their religious beliefs, dietary restrictions, and important cultural practices.
- Respect and Honor Cultural Identities: Acknowledge and celebrate the cultural identities of children and youth in care. For example, incorporate their cultural practices into daily routines and special occasions.
- Communicate Effectively: Use language services to ensure clear communication with children and their biological families if necessary. Be aware of non-verbal communication norms in different cultures.
- Build an Inclusive Environment: Create an environment that reflects the diverse cultures of the children and youth in your care. For instance, include books, art, and other materials representing various cultural backgrounds.
- Participate in Cultural Competency Training: Regularly participate in cultural competency training to stay informed about best practices in culturally sensitive care.
- Avoid Assumptions and Stereotypes: Be mindful not to make assumptions or use stereotypes about any culture. Each child and family is unique and should be treated as such.
- Support Cultural Activities: Encourage and support participation in cultural activities, festivals, and traditions that are important to the children and youth in your care.
- Advocate: Advocate for the cultural needs of children in your care and ensure they can access resources and support that respect their cultural background.
- Provide Feedback To Adapt: Continuously seek feedback from children and their families about their cultural needs and be willing to adapt practices accordingly.
- Tailor Education and Health Practices: Consider cultural perspectives in education and health practices, including understanding different learning styles and health beliefs.
- Involve Biological Families: Whenever possible, involve biological families in the care process to maintain cultural connections. Regular visits, phone calls, or participation in cultural events can help children and youth retain connections to their identities while adjusting to foster care living arrangements.
The SOS Children’s Villages Illinois Advantage
SOS Children’s Villages Illinois is a unique model that places full-time, professional Foster Parents in single-family homes in one of its Villages, where up to six children, ranging in age from infants to young adults, call home. Our villages boast built-in access to caseworkers or therapists and a 100 percent graduation rate, and 75 percent of those high school graduates choose to pursue a college degree.
Consider Becoming an SOS Foster Parent
If you want to become a foster parent, consider signing up with SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. Thousands of children in Illinois are ready to be welcomed into loving foster homes. If you’re prepared to take the leap and change a child’s life, check out how to make that happen.
Change a Child’s Life Today!
If you decide becoming a foster parent isn’t for you, there are many other ways to support foster children and other foster parents. You can support SOS Children’s Villages Illinois making a donation here. You can also help by participating in an SOS Illinois fundraising event or making an in-kind contribution. The generosity of donors has enabled us to provide safe, stable, loving homes for more than thirty years. To learn how you can host a fundraiser for SOS Illinois please contact our Advancement team at (312) 372-3800.