Another promising approach to family engagement, permanency, and ICPM values integration involves the use of cultural
brokers. Cultural brokers increase the overall well-being for children, youth, and families by providing culturally
sensitive support that will assist families with navigation through various agencies and programs. They provide
brokering, advocacy, and support to families that are involved in child and family serving programs. Cultural brokers
can decrease the likelihood of cultural misunderstandings between families, case workers, and service providers, and
reduce the rates of disproportionality and disparity that exist in the child and youth serving system of care. Cultural
brokers are utilized to empower families regardless of race, ethnic background, or economic status so that their own
strengths and capacities are supported and developed. In addition to their direct work with families, cultural brokers
also advocate for broader systematic changes to reduce disproportionality and disparities that exist within child and
family serving programs.
Cultural brokers receive extensive training in child welfare, probation, and/or behavioral health systems, cultural
humility, and community partnerships. Ideally, cultural brokers are of the same culture as the family or have an
extensive knowledge base of the family’s culture. Some cultural brokers have extensive knowledge not only of specific
culture, but also potentially regarding substance abuse, domestic violence, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and/or
immigrant and refugee needs and programs.
Knowledge and expertise in these specialized areas greatly enhance efforts to ensure that families from diverse
backgrounds receive effective and appropriate services, support, and advocacy. Cultural brokers typically have a wide
range of educational experience, but most importantly have the trust of the community they are representing. Cultural
brokers support families in a variety of ways, including linking the family with local supportive resources, assisting
with team meetings, encouraging the family to work with the case manager, or attending court with the family. Cultural
Brokers work to increase the quality of the relationship between agencies and the families it serves, so that better
outcomes are achieved for the families. Additional activities or roles that a cultural broker may engage include, but
are not limited to: transportation, attending appointments, crisis intervention and home visitation.
The National Center for Cultural Competence emphasizes the importance of the following principles when implementing a
cultural broker program:
- Honor and respect cultural differences in communities
- The community defines their own needs
- Services are safe, confidential, and respectful
- Services are delivered in non-traditional and flexible ways that meet the needs of the community and cultures
- Transfer of knowledge between service providers and communities
Cultural Broker Resources
- National Center for Cultural Competency
- This website includes an historical overview, rationale, definition of role, and qualification of a cultural broker in the health care delivery context.