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A Culturally Sensitive Approach – Annex to the “Safe Places, Thriving Children” Practice Guidance
Increasing migration and a high number of refugees and forcibly displaced people cause an accelerated spread of a large diversity of cultures throughout the world. This results in a more diverse group of young people within alternative care settings and a large new target group, namely unaccompanied children. This evolution brings several challenges. Social workers come into contact with target groups of which they have little knowledge. Cultural barriers are experienced, which can jeopardize the quality of care. This puts care workers in an uncertain position. Within trauma-informed care, the impact of culture is undoubtedly an important factor to take into account. Firstly, because trauma-related mental health problems are particularly common among refugees. In addition, traumatic experiences are very complex and are largely influenced by a person’s identity (culture, ethnicity, nationality, etc.). Given the uniqueness of unaccompanied children as a target group and the complexity of traumatic experiences, social workers should be able to demonstrate a strong sensitivity to culture. However, herein lies a potential pitfall. On the one hand, social workers should be sensitive to the specific vulnerabilities of unaccompanied children, but on the other hand, they should not reduce or categorize them based of these vulnerabilities. In this appendix, we will first elaborate on the specific vulnerabilities of unaccompanied children. Then we will look at what cultural sensitivity means in working with this target group and why it is relevant in trauma-informed practices. Finally, we will discuss some tools for the social worker to assume a culturally sensitive approach within a trauma-informed framework. The purpose of this appendix is not to replace information of the practical guide but rather to supplement it regarding unaccompanied children.