APS IH / May 2007
Adult Protective Services considers cultural issues when conducting investigations or providing protective services. Protective services are provided in a culturally competent manner.
Culture is a learned pattern of customs, beliefs, values, and behaviors which are:
• socially acquired and transmitted through symbols, rituals, and events; and
• convey widely shared meanings among its members.
Culture includes food, traditions, celebrations, relationships, ideas, and lifestyle choices.
Cultural competence is a state in which a person, agency, or organization becomes effective in working with people from different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.
APS staff adapts practice skills to fit the needs of clients within the clients’ cultural contexts.
APS IH / May 2011
• Address interviewees using formal titles (for example, Mr., Mrs., or Ms.) unless directed otherwise.
• Use formal demeanor and be respectful of cultural customs.
• Avoid conversation that suggests familiarity or lack of respect.
• Be aware of personal limitations regarding cultural characteristics. Lack of knowledge, stereotyping, prejudices, and other incorrect beliefs about a person’s culture can negatively influence judgment and compromise the integrity of an investigation.
• Ask for clarification of cultural issues when necessary. Consult with an expert or cultural guide when cultural issues need clarification.
• Communicate clearly, avoiding idioms, slang expressions, acronyms, and professional jargon.
• Stay alert for nonverbal signs of discomfort or embarrassment and redirect the interview as appropriate.
• Stay alert for the possibility that appropriate interpreter services are needed.
• Be aware that personal knowledge of and experience with a specific client group are not always applicable to all people from that group. Each person’s personality traits and personal histories are as important as the culture of which he or she is a member, and must be taken into account.
• Remember that some people are distrustful of other cultures. This distrust may be a result of negative personal experiences, or may reflect attitudes held in common by members of the culture.
• Conduct interviews at a slower pace and engage in polite preliminary social conversation before addressing investigation issues, if necessary, to build trust and rapport.
• Consult with a cultural guide or professional from the client’s community to clarify confusing information, determine how to proceed, or gain access to needed information or persons.
• Remember certain cultural groups have had negative experiences with government agencies and fear them. Be careful to be particularly empathetic and respectful, emphasizing the helping role of APS rather than its authority as a government agency.
• Accept the person’s perspective and avoid challenging the customs specific to his or her culture (for example, the use of curanderos, a type of faith healer, among some Hispanics).
• Use resources within the client’s community to resolve the client’s problem.
• Develop service plans that reflect the client’s cultural differences unless the action puts the client at risk of serious harm or death.
• Make an effort to learn about resources targeted to specific client populations. The APS specialist offers the client resources that are targeted for the client’s group whenever the services are available (for example, an ethnic meal site).
Selecting Service Providers
• Ensure that a person who can adequately communicate with the client provides services. Communication can be facilitated by a translator or by other means if the service provider does not speak the client’s language.
• Recognize that clients who have experienced discrimination may be reluctant to use services provided by people outside their cultural group.
• Develop a rapport and a trusting relationship with the client to reassure the client that the service provider will treat him or her respectfully. In some cases, having the APS specialist or a cultural guide being present during the initial contact with the service provider encourages the client to accept a service or intervention.
Using Cultural Strengths
• Recognize that all cultures have specific strategies for social organization and diverse customs and coping mechanisms that work well but may seem strange to people outside the culture.
• Recognize certain cultural differences are strengths and use them in the service planning process.
See also 3140 Incorporating Cultural Competency in Service Delivery.