Cultural Responsiveness

What is FRIENDS role in cultural responsiveness?

The FRIENDS National Center for CBCAP helps states understand the importance of cultural responsiveness in their work with children and families by identifying and creating tools that will foster increased knowledge, appreciation, respect, and partnerships with diverse populations.

Why Cultural Responsiveness?

Today, families and communities are more demographically diverse and culturally dynamic. These dynamics require a greater understanding of the role of culture in families and communities. The 2010 Census showed the U.S. to be more ethnically and culturally diverse than at any other time in history, creating unique challenges for state programs and services1. To more effectively support state CBCAP SLAs around these challenges, cultural competency as a critical aspect of good program implementation and service delivery needed to evolve. Cultural responsiveness appropriately addresses these issues using cultural competency and cultural humility as the framework for engaging diverse families and communities. Cultural humility requires attitudes, beliefs, and actions that invite new information and new perspectives continuously2. The addition of cultural humility strengthens programs and services making them more inclusive and responsive to families, workers, and state systems.

What are the Elements of Cultural Responsiveness?

Cultural Responsiveness has three key elements, which are Culture, Cultural Competency, and Cultural Humility.


A constantly changing, learning pattern of customs, beliefs, values, and behaviors, which are socially acquired and transmitted through symbols, rituals, and events and which convey widely shared meanings among its members. Culture includes gender, age, sexual orientation, geographic location, ethnicity, values, personality, ability status, marital status, and job position3

Cultural Competence

The ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, ability statuses, and faiths or religions, in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, tribes, and communities, and protects and preserves the dignity of each. Cultural competence is a continuous process of learning about the differences of others and integrating their unique strengths and perspectives into our lives4

Cultural Humility

Promotes self-awareness, the acknowledgment that the experiences of others are different than ours and requires that we be open and respectful of their perspectives, and that out of acceptance we develop understanding and the recognition that others have a positive worth5

What does a Culturally Responsive approach look like?

Cultural competency and cultural humility make up the framework for culturally responsive work and engagement with families, communities, and service systems. Combined, they create a culturally responsive approach for states that calls for continuously gaining knowledge and an understanding of the varied needs of diverse families and communities. Workers learn from these families and communities as well as their coworkers and others in the workplace, reserving judgment, and learning to bridge the cultural gap between different perspectives as significant components of this framework.

What are other culturally responsive guiding values and principles?


  • A willingness to accurately assess oneself and one’s limitations.
  • Embrace the complexity of diversity.
  • The ability to acknowledge gaps in one’s cultural knowledge and understanding.
  • Openness to new ideas, contradictory information, and advice6


  • Build organizational support that demonstrates cultural responsiveness as necessary and ongoing aspects of the work itself.
  • Systems and organizations must sanction, and in some cases, mandate the incorporation of cultural knowledge and understanding into policymaking, infrastructure, and programs.
  • Embrace the principles of equal access and non-discriminatory practices in service delivery.

Programs & Service Design

  • Cultural responsiveness is achieved by collaborating with individuals and families to identify and understand their needs, their strengths, and culturally-based behaviors.
  • Cultural responsiveness means that organizations design and implement services that incorporate the knowledge and unique cultural experiences of individuals, children, families, organizations, and communities served.
  • Culturally responsive programs are driven by first-hand knowledge and an understanding of the varied needs of diverse families and communities--their choices, not by cultural stereotypes or generalized assumptions7

Introduction to Cultural Responsiveness: A Training Tool

The materials included in this tool can be used by CBCAP State Leads, local CBCAP program coordinators, or others working with groups of people. The materials can be incorporated into a presentation or training, or resources may be shared with individuals who desire more information on selected populations on cultural responsiveness in general. State Leads may contact their FRIENDS’ T/TA Coordinator for assistance in using these materials or with questions.

1. Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010, 

2. Ortega, R. M. & Coulborn-Faller, K. (2011) Training child welfare workers from an intersectional cultural humility perspective: A paradigm shift. Journal of Child Welfare, Vol.90, No. 5 

3. Child Welfare League of America (2013) 

4. Child Welfare League of America (2013) 

5. Adapted from Ortega, R. M. & Coulborn-Faller, K. (2011) 

6. Adapted from Ortega, R. M. & Coulborn-Faller, K. (November 2011) Webinar: Cultural Humility and Management in Child Welfare. National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, 

7. Adapted from Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, (2013)