About Tutorial 10: Cultural and Linguistic Competence in Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation

About Tutorial 10: Cultural and Linguistic Competence in Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation

baby with bib

This tutorial was developed by Kathy Seitzinger Hepburn and Wendy Jones for the Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, an Innovation and Improvement Project funded by the Office of Head Start. Special thanks to those early childhood mental health consultants working in Head Start, Early Head Start, and Migrant Head Start programs who provided vignettes and case studies as teaching tools for this tutorial.

About this Tutorial

Since the birth of Head Start in 1965, programs have served culturally and linguistically diverse populations. In the beginning of the program the diverse population was primarily Spanish-speaking children and their families. According to the Office of Head Start, currently “over 140 languages are spoken by children and families in Head Start and the number of cultures represented is even greater” (Early Head Start National Resource Center @ ZERO TO THREE, p.6). Such diversity presents a challenge in providing early childhood mental health consultation (ECMHC) services that respond effectively to each family’s and community’s racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.

In the What Works? study (Duran et al 2009) on effective ECMHC, some consultants found it difficult to articulate how they understood, approached, and successfully engaged young children and their families in ways that addressed or responded to ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity. Within the relationship-based work of early childhood mental health consultation, consultants must explore and gain a firm understanding of consultees’ cultures, including ethnic, racial, linguistic, socioeconomic, education and religious aspects. In preparation and practice, consultants must reflect on how their own culture impacts their approach to service delivery and reconcile this individual perspective with the collective culture of all of those involved in the consultation process. To deliver appropriate and effective services, consultants must:

  • Recognize and respond to diverse values, beliefs, practices and expectations related to child development, emotional health and well-being and child rearing practices of young children, their families and program staff, and
  • Improve the quality, accessibility, and cultural responsiveness of mental health consultation services within the Head Start and Early Head Start program and greater community.

Purpose and Overall Goal
The purpose and overall goal of this tutorial is to help early childhood mental health consultants understand what is meant by cultural and linguistic competence and to recognize the preparation, skills, and practices that support effective service delivery within and across diverse cultures and communities. Understanding one’s own cultural perspective, respecting and building knowledge of other cultures, and practicing “cultural reciprocity” will improve therapeutic consultation skills as well as enhance consultation services to Head Start and Early Head Start children, families, staff and programs.

Learning Objectives
After completing this tutorial, you will be able to:

  • Recognize the bio-social context of culture and its influence on the values, beliefs, child rearing practices and expectations of families and program staff for expectant families, child development, and social-emotional health and well-being.
  • Define cultural and linguistic competence and describe three key components of cultural and linguistic competence for early childhood mental health consultants; including a framework/guide for building cultural and linguistic competence.
  • Reflect on and explore consultant preparation, knowledge, skills, and attributes that will enhance the effectiveness of consultation in diverse communities and describe strategies and skills for effective cross-cultural communication.
  • Recognize how cultural and linguistic diversity impact ECMHC practices and the work of consultation.

Getting Started

Time Commitment

This tutorial is designed to take about 90 minutes to complete, although timing may vary from person to person. We recommend completing the training in one sitting, but if this is not possible, you can easily pick up where you left off at a later time.

Materials Needed
Other than a computer; you will not need any materials to complete this training. You may want to keep a pen/pencil and paper handy to take notes, or to have ready access to a printer to print items that are of particular interest to you.

Throughout this tutorial there may be words or terminology that may be new to you.  Please check our glossary by clicking on the direct link at the top of the page or in the left margin.  The glossary will open in a new window.

If you have any questions or technical difficulties with this tutorial, please email us. Thank you and we hope you enjoy the training.

This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.