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Caring for children from diverse cultural backgrounds

Carers will need to be supported by caseworkers to attend to the specific needs of migrant and refugee children and young people. While this applies to all carers, it is particularly important for carers looking after children and young people from a different cultural background to their own.

Caseworkers can assist carers to attend to the specific needs of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) children and young people by:

  • discussing carer attitudes towards the child’s cultural background and people from the cultural community
  • helping carers to identify positive attitudes and pre-conceptions, stereotyping and/or prejudice
  • working with the carer to identify practical strategies to support cultural maintenance and how to deal with discrimination, prejudice and/or racism
  • providing the carer with information about the culture, religion, language, and community of the child in Australia
  • providing contact details of relevant cultural, religious and linguistic services and networks in the local area
  • providing information about the specific needs of refugee children and contact details for specialist services and supports that can provide further information and advice.

Key attributes carers need

The following attributes are adapted from the work of Elizabeth Vonk in the United States on defining the attitudes, knowledge and skills required by non-CALD adoptive parents looking after CALD children and young people (Cultural Competence for Trans-racial Adoptive Parents, 2001). The expectation is that improvements in carers’ abilities in these key areas will contribute towards better outcomes for CALD children/young people in their care.

Cultural awareness

Cultural awareness is your ability as a carer to examine and understand the role that race, ethnicity, and culture plays in shaping your attitudes, beliefs and practices. This includes an understanding of your attitudes, beliefs and interactions with members of culturally diverse communities – particularly in relation to the cultural background of the child/young person in your care.

Responding positively to prejudice and discrimination

Experiences of discrimination, prejudice and racism may confront you and the children and young people in your care. You should be able to understand the impact of prejudice and racism on the child and young person and assist them developing positive strategies for coping with this issue.

This can be particularly challenging if you are non-CALD and have had limited personal experience of being the target of discrimination, prejudice or racism. It is important that the child/young people’s experiences in this regard are not minimised or negated.

Multicultural strategies

As a carer you should be able to identify and implement appropriate strategies to create avenues for CALD children/young people to maintain or further develop cultural, linguistic or religious ties. This includes being informed about CALD related services, supports and networks relevant to the needs of the child/young person.

The Tips for carers checklist outlines practical ways in which these attributes can be used to support CALD children.

More information about raising culturally and linguistically diverse children and young people can also be found on the Caring for Kids website.

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Last updated: 26 Aug 2020