Cultural Competence and Standards of Practice, Preparation, and Training

Cultural Competence and Standards of Practice, Preparation, and Training

7-month old baby playing with toys

Standards of Practice for Cultural Competence

Standards of practice are usually established by professional organizations, endorsement programs, professional training programs, and higher education. They represent the combination of values, depth of knowledge, a research based perspective, and when available, an evidence-base of effectiveness for a given profession. Most mental health disciplines and professional organizations (including state licensure boards) have established ethical standards and/or standards of practice related to cultural and linguistic competence. For example standards, visit the American Psychological Association (2010), the National Association of Social Workers (2007), and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (2001, rev. 2012). websites. These standards contribute to the professional development of mental health professions and guide practice in delivering mental health services.

Early childhood professional and service organizations have also set national standards for addressing cultural and linguistic competence in ECE settings. For example, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, 2009); and the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children (DEC, 2010) have both issued position statements declaring their commitment to support and practice respect for the culture, values, beliefs, and languages of each family in their organization as well as the professional field in which they play a leadership role. Head Start and Early Head Start Head Start have addressed cultural and linguistic competence through the Head Start Program Performance Standards (Office of Head Start, current) and the more recently revised “Revisiting and Updating the Multicultural Principles for Head Start Programs Serving Children Ages Birth to Five: Addressing Culture and Home Language in Head Start Program Systems & Services (Early Head Start National Resource Center@ ZERO TO THREE, 2010). In this way, the Office of Head Start makes their position clear; stating their commitment to recognize, support, and respond to individual cultural differences and setting performance standards to guide culturally relevant service delivery. See Head Start Multi-cultural Principles and Head Start Standards Related to Culture and Diversity.

For early childhood mental health consultants, opportunities for specialized preparation and training in infant and early childhood mental health are guided by principles and standards of practice related specifically to consultation in the context of ECE settings. As a growing field, these principles and standards of practice are both in use and in development; integrating core competencies, knowledge, and practices that convey deep respect for the influence of culture on child development and child mental health. For example, the Michigan – Association for Infant Mental Health (2012) endorsement and code of ethics state the intent to recognize and document the development of infant and family professionals within an organized system of culturally sensitive, relationship-based, infant mental health learning and work experiences. California’s Infant-Family & Early Childhood Mental Health Training Guidelines Workgroup (2009) has also established the Revised Training Guidelines and Personnel Competencies for Infant-Family and Early Childhood Mental Health for a formal endorsement process. These include key concepts and specific competencies related to cultural influences on parenting, family development, child development, biological and psychosocial factors impacting outcomes, as well as concrete practices that support culture and diversity.

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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.