Gathering Information and Building Trust

Gathering Information and Building Trust

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Gathering information and building trust with families and providers is most successful when approached with sincere interest, reflective listening, empathy, and suspended judgment. It involves acknowledging family and/or provider concerns, gathering information with purpose, and offering reassurance (Betancourt, 2004). In practice, gathering information usually includes an interview process with parents and providers, direct observation of the child in the ECE environment and home settings, as well as a review of information that has been gathered via screening, and assessment strategies. This section will focus on three areas of information gathering strongly influenced by cultural perspectives:

  • Perceptions of the concern and reason for referral
  • Child development and the family or caregiving context
  • Socio-cultural context of the family

There may be multiple perceptions of the concern and reason for referral for consultation. A culturally anchored process for gathering information includes considering how the worldview or socio-cultural context of each party family, staff, and the consultant themselves may influence the perception of any concern or need for any intervention. Even if there is agreement about a concern, the explanation for the cause of the problem may also be heavily influenced by these different cultural perspectives (Garcia Coll & Meyer, 1993). The explanatory model that emerges will then influence ideas about what might be helpful to the child and family. Exploring the perception and explanation of a family’s or ECE providers’ concerns is an important part of enhancing communication, building trust, and beginning to discuss ways that the consultant, ECE providers, and family might work together.

Obtaining information about a child’s development and the family or caregiving context is typically the core of information about the child, family, and the child’s experience at home and in the child care setting. It includes information about the cultural identity and preferred language of the child and family; understanding the family structure, roles, and interactions; as well as caregiving beliefs and practices that influence parenting practices. A developmental and medical history will include the circumstances of the mother’s pregnancy, special culture-based practices or circumstances that influence birth and delivery, as well as expectations and achievement of developmental milestones. It is an opportunity to further explore the family’s perception of concerns and strengths for their child and family and their perspective on what will help.

Consultants may have a standard approach to gathering this kind of information as part of the initial contact with children and families. It may be helpful to review this approach with an eye for cultural competence examining how questions may be shaped or how responses may be heard to recognize cultural diversity and a family’s cultural perspective. “Guidelines for the Home Visitor” reprinted in Lynch & Hanson’s book Developing Cross Cultural Competence: A Guide for Working with Children and Their Families (2002, Fourth printing) were originally suggested to assist home visitors and others who work with young children and families in early childhood settings. These guidelines reflect the type of ethnographic inquiry that will support obtaining child development and family caregiving information for use in culturally competent early childhood mental health consultation. A sample of these types of questions are reflected in the Tips for How to Explore Culture and Beliefs.  For a more detailed description of guidelines and ethnographic inquiry, review Guidelines for Exploring a Family’s Cultural Perspectives.

The socio-cultural context of the family includes information about the family history, cultural beliefs and values, as well as economic and social factors. Gathering information in this area will reveal culture-based strengths and resilience (Hays, P., 2001) related to a family’s sense of belonging, identity, and interpersonal, as well as community supports. According to Gosh Ippen (2009), information gathering must also explore the experience of ethnic or culture related trauma – historical as well as present day trauma experiences of the family and child. These trauma experiences may include relocation, immigration, oppression, racism, discrimination and violence. One strategy to assess and understand the complexities of the socio-cultural context of a family and increase sensitivity to the daily experience of culturally diverse families is to use a guide for gathering information. The Culturagram (Congress, 1997, 2005) is a guide that identifies various domains of the socio-cultural context and suggested questions to explore each domain. An adapted Culturagram that includes themes related to expectant families and early childhood mental health can be used to help understand the unique circumstances, past, and present cultural contexts of a family (See Culturagram).

**NOTE: Save or print a copy of the Culturagram for the activity that follows.

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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.