Everyone has a culture-based perspective and worldview
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.
Cultural beliefs and practices related to family relationships, pregnancy, pre-natal care, birth and delivery influence an expectant family’s anticipation and experience of the coming child as well as the developing infant.
In early childhood development, early environments and nurturing relationships are essential; both of which are influenced by culture and reflected in childrearing beliefs and practices.
Perceptions and expectations about infants’, toddlers’ and preschoolers’ growth and development, child rearing, definitions of family and the role of family members, are all rooted in culture. Culture also includes different notions about health and wellness, illness, and disability; and most aspects of family life, including those that extend into the context of a child and family’s community in which they live.
This nature of ECMHC offers a rich environment for learning from each party’s culturally influenced perspective – deepening relationships, gaining mutual understanding, and working together on behalf of the young child and family. It also offers the opportunity for potential cultural differences, discontinuity, and conflict.
Cultural competence is a defined set of values and principles, behaviors, attitudes, policies, and practices that enable early childhood mental health consultants to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. Linguistic competence is the capacity to convey information in a manner that is easily understood by children, families, and program staff from diverse backgrounds and abilities including persons of limited English proficiency and low literacy skills.
ECMHC’s who strive to incorporate culturally and linguistically competent practices into their interactions with others demonstrate the capacity for: Self-Awareness, Respect for Diversity, and Reflective Practices.
Mental health practice disciplines, early childhood professional and service organizations, and competency-based preparation for infant and early childhood mental health consultants have set national, practice, or ethical standards for addressing cultural and linguistic competence in ECE settings.
There are required core areas of knowledge, skills, and competencies for infant-family and early childhood mental health professionals required for providing services that are responsive to cultural and linguistic diversity.
Effective early childhood mental health consultants must possess a high level of cross cultural communication skills including resources to support linguistic competence, using interpreters and translators, accommodating non-verbal and high or low context styles, and skilled dialogue for negotiating cultural differences.
Effective consultants utilize culturally responsive practices when working with young children, families, and ECE providers in both child and family centered consultation and programmatic consultation throughout the stages of the consultative process.
Reflective supervision can be used to thoughtfully examine and explore the impact of culture on the consultative relationship, how cultural and linguistic diversity influences the consultative process, and the capacity of the consultant to provide culturally responsive care.
In the larger context of an early childhood program, consultants can use their knowledge, skills, attributes, and perspective on cultural and linguistic competence to support organizational structures and programmatic approaches that are responsive to cultural and linguistic diversity.
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.