Effective responsible fatherhood program practitioners are aware of the various circumstances that program participants may experience. Each father brings with him his own set of lived experiences and set of beliefs that shape the way he behaves as a father. Effective group programs are built on a foundation of trust that encourages self-reflection, personal sharing, peer support, and ongoing growth.1 A key part of building this foundation of trust and respect is conducting work with fathers in a culturally competent way.
Cultural competence is the capacity to work effectively in the context of cultural differences. Integrating cultural competence into responsible fatherhood programs is important to improving the overall effectiveness of program activities. Cultural competence can also improve access to quality resources that are respectful of and responsive to the needs of a diverse group of participants.
The Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit section on Cultural Competency provides tips and suggestions that fatherhood programs can use to address cultural competence. Here are some examples of ways that individuals and organizations can build cultural competency.
At the individual level:
- Assess your own biases. Being aware of your bias will help you to avoid pre-judging participants based on cultural background or otherwise treating individuals unfairly or unjustly. Consider using the Developing Cultural Humility: Self-Reflection Exercises, in this section of the Toolkit.
- Be welcoming, respectful, and non-judgmental of potential participants from all cultures and backgrounds.
- Recognize the diversity within members of the same racial, ethnic, or cultural group. Never rely on one person to speak for an entire community.
At the organizational level:
- Assess policies and procedures. Be willing to revise them if needed to support culturally competent services. Organizations should understand their clientele’s demographics and adjust programming, policies, and procedures accordingly.
- Provide training to all staff on cultural competency and cultural humility. Create an open environment for staff and allow opportunities for everyone in the program to express their thoughts and perspectives.
- Hire staff members who reflect the target population. Programs can seem more relevant and welcoming when fathers see staff members who look like them, speak the same language, and share key cultural experiences.
Infusing cultural competence is an ongoing process that takes place at both the individual and organizational levels. The most effective practitioners are those who have empathy, can connect with the individual as a person, observe and ask questions, and take other actions to ensure they are knowledgeable and understanding of the variety of cultural backgrounds. This openness and understanding help build the trust and respect that help bring about positive change in the fathers in your programs.
National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse
1Responsible Fatherhood Toolkit: Resources from the Field, Group Work. https://www.fatherhood.gov/toolkit/work/group-work