Cultural competence: The role of cultural values in child welfare practice with African American families

Camesha M Grant, Fordham University


Cultural competence has evolved as a significant framework in social work for understanding diversity and the importance of work with people of varying cultures. However, the literature has largely consisted of theoretical and conceptual articles that describe cultural competent models and identify frameworks for culturally diverse practice, particularly child welfare practice. Empirical studies on culturally competent practice are scant; therefore, this hypothesis-driven dissertation study sought to understand the relationship between practice decisions of workers in the child welfare system and the cultural values of kinship, spirituality, childrearing, and communalism, which are significant in African American culture. A series of case vignettes representing African American clients and Caucasian clients were utilized to examine practice. Two major purposes gave direction to this study: First, this study attempted to provide empirical knowledge on culturally competent practice in child welfare practice with African Americans and second, the study examined differences in practice decisions made by child welfare workers in minority-governed agencies as compared to child welfare workers in non-minority governed agencies. Child welfare workers' level of multi-cultural knowledge, awareness, and skills was examined using the Multicultural Awareness-Knowledge-and-Skills Survey Counselor Edition-Revised [MAKSS-CE-R]. The data used for this study were obtained from a sample (N=119) of child welfare workers employed in nine child welfare agencies under the auspices of New York City's Administration for Children's Services. This dissertation study was theoretically informed by the eco-systems perspective, the Afrocentric paradigm, the strengths perspective, and the ecological africentric model. Results indicated a statistically significant difference between minority-governed agencies and non-minority governed agencies in practice that reflects the African American cultural value of childrearing—with non-minority governed agencies more likely to explore the discipline style used by the client and how it is viewed in their background. Results indicated that a statistically significant difference was found on the total scale score between child welfare workers who had training in cultural competence at the agency in which they were currently employed and child welfare workers who had not, with child welfare workers who have had training in cultural competence scoring significantly higher on the MAKSS-CE-R total scale. Results from the hierarchical multiple regression models indicated that what was most predictive of scores on the African American vignettes was the child welfare workers feelings about the importance of cultural competence. Findings from this dissertation study can be used to inform culturally competent practice with African American families in the child welfare system. Based on these research findings, implications for social work practice, education, and research are also discussed.

Subject Area

Black studies|Social work|Public policy

Recommended Citation

Grant, Camesha M, "Cultural competence: The role of cultural values in child welfare practice with African American families" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3309583.