Stability for Families…. How Community Culture Affects Service Delivery
By Kim Cagno, Director, County of San Mateo Department of Child Support Services
On February 28, 2018, over 200 child support professionals, stakeholders, policymakers, advocates, and educators attended the CSDA Children and Families Policy Symposium. The focus of this year’s symposium was, “Stability for Families…How Community Culture Affects Service Delivery.”
Keynote speaker, Reverend Dr. Michael James Oleksa, a leader in cross-cultural communication, set the stage by sharing his story of teachings to Alaskan children. “Culture is the way you see the world,” said Father Oleksa. “We only show others the tip of our iceberg.” Our reality and perception of culture begins from the moment we are born. Rituals, tempo, volume, distance, and music are below the iceberg and how we are wired. We must know the ball game we are playing in and be able to get into another person’s beam of light. Understanding cultural differences will allow us to honor, respect, and engage in service delivery across cultural backgrounds.
Chief Economist at the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, Amar Mann, reported that 70% of all jobs are low level and require no college degree, one in five workers are only working part-time, and close to a half million people believe there is no work available to them or have stopped looking. There are challenges and inequities when you dig deep into the statistical data sets of race, ethnicity, and geographic regions.
Scott Allard, Professor at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy, shared his research and insightful perspective on “Confronting the Reality of the New Suburban Poor” and how poverty spans across geographic zones. The stereotype of who lives in poverty is no longer the picture of inner cities and overlooks substantial needs of others. We face new challenges and need to make careful decisions on safety net programs, local funding of programs and our capacity to serve our urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods. There are competitive pressures and insufficient capacity to address poverty and NIMBYism as it relates to the suburban poor.
Putting words into action and creating collaborative partnerships can be achieved. Attendees heard from three community leaders who are transforming service delivery in their communities. Leslie Zeitler, California Project Manager of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), works to provide the platform to the national alliance and contributes to the success that GARE has had in building capacity. She provides training and technical assistance for peers to connect with each other to support and transform their communities as it relates to cultural inequities. Their Racial Inequity Tool allows jurisdictions to create policy, practice and programs that help advance racial equity in their agencies to better serve their communities.
Margaret Jackson, Executive Director of Cultural Broker Family Advocate Program, expressed the “No Wrong Door” approach to the Cultural Broker Program and the hands-on approach to Lean in, Lift Up and Connect to Culture. Her vivid stories captured the attention of the audience. Their service delivery is driven by the core belief that all families regardless of race, ethnic background, or economic status are supported and developed throughout our communities. This can be accomplished by having courageous conversations and developing safety plans around “who loves the children.”
Maria Lemus, Executive Director of Vision y Compromiso, engaged the attendees in her candid discussions Color, Class, Creed and Culture. The Promotores Model is a social change model that strips away cultural inequities and implicit bias because it is built upon building relationships, engaging the community, and sharing information and resources. Promotores reduce disparity and build trust by understanding lived experiences through the lens of the customers they serve.
Mark Beckley, Chief Deputy Director of California State Department of Child Support Services, and Will Lightbourne, Director of California Department of Social Services, shared how their programs strive to support the stabilization of families regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status. Perceptions and differences in opinions amongst males and females who engage in these programs are varied. California parents want us to simplify the process, improve accessibility and customer service, and promote program awareness. Family Resource Centers and targeted outreach to the community have resulted in some success stories.
Moderator and Provocateur, Dr. Sherri Heller, Director of Sacramento Health and Human Services, asked challenging questions of the speakers and echoed sentiments shared throughout the day. She urged participants to be change agents in delivering services in a culturally sensitive way. With strong community involvement and collaborative communication, we can improve delivery of services and the well-being of children and families across cultural cross sections.