NASW updates cultural competence standards

Jan 27, 2016

NASW has updated its “Standards and Indicators for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice.”

The 2015 NASW National Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity, or NCORED, spent the past year reviewing, revising and seeking public input in updating the document to introduce new concepts and expand on suggestions outlined in previous editions: The “Standards for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice,” published in 2001; and “Indicators for the Achievement of the NASW Standards for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice,” published in 2007.

NCORED members assigned to the revision represented a diverse group of professionals with different areas of expertise, said NCORED Chairwoman Carol Bonner, who serves as associate dean of Salem State University School of Social Work.

“These standards offer updated concepts and some definitions we think are integral to practice,” Bonner said. “The important and intensive work by the members of NCORED to develop the standards was motivated by the need to help social work practice competently address the increasingly diverse populations.”

“We worked hard to be more inclusive in the revising to include immigrants, refugees, tribal groups, and gender identity and expression,” Bonner added.

The standards are divided into the following categories: Ethics and Values; Self-Awareness; Cross-Cultural Knowledge; Cross-Cultural Skills; Service Delivery; Empowerment and Advocacy; Diverse Workforce; Professional Education; Language and Communication; and Leadership to Advance Cultural Competence.

The revised document introduces new concepts and expands upon others, Bonner noted in her NCORED annual report to the NASW board of directors.

“These standards reinforce the concept of ‘culture’ as being inclusive beyond race and ethnicity, inclusive of but not limited to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and religious identity or spirituality,” she said.

“Similarly, they reinforce the intended audience for these standards are to the broad spectrum of social work practice at the micro, mezzo and macro levels,” Bonner said.

“The revised standards introduce concepts of ‘cultural humility,’ as a guiding stance vis-a-vis cultural differences and ‘intersectionality’ as a way of understanding the complexity of the experiences of those at the margins of society,” she said.

In addition, the revision introduces “linguistic competence” as a concept to address a range of communication issues to include limited English proficiency, literacy and disabilities.

From the January 2016 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story here.