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Three learnings about cultural humility this Race Equality Week

This week is Race Equality Week, a week when organisations across the country unite in activity to address race in the workplace. At CVAA, we are proud of the work our members do to promote inclusiveness and increase diversity, both among their workforce and in the recruitment of adopters. However the adoption sector, like many others, still has more work to do in this respect. Notably the 2021 Adoption Strategy stated that “we need to recruit from a wider, more diverse, pool of adopters to care for children from a range of backgrounds often with complex needs.” One aspect of this is supporting adoption social workers in their thinking and practice around diversity and difference, and over recent months practitioners and leaders have been engaging with training on ‘cultural humility’, provided via the National Adoption Recruitment Steering Group.

But what is cultural humility and how is it relevant to the work adoption professionals do? Below we’ve summarised CVAA’s top 3 takeaways from the sessions, which hold significance for how adoption agencies work internally and attract and welcome more adopters from diverse backgrounds.

  1. Cultural humility is not the same as cultural competency.

We learnt that cultural competency is the acquisition of knowledge about different cultures. This could happen through direct exposure to different cultures, by spending time with people from that culture for example, or by other ways of learning. In contract, cultural humility can be defined as a process of self-reflection “where you examine your biases, beliefs and values to see how they affect interactions and power dynamics with people from diverse cultures.” It is also a purposeful endeavour, with the aim to bring about change in attitudes and behaviour, both on an individual level and across society. Cultural humility is therefore an essential concept and practice in all relationship-based work, to ensure that cultural differences are explored non-judgmentally, and instead with curiosity and respect.

  1. Being alert to power imbalances is a key part of cultural humility.

Power imbalances are pervasive throughout society, from our personal lives to our employment. The children’s sector is no exception, particularly the nature of assessments, where social workers hold enormous knowledge about the lives of the people they are assessing, control the language used in reports and have great influence regarding the final outcome (as do managers and panel members). Many social workers are already familiar with sensitively finding ways to re-address these power imbalances during assessments, yet the training stressed that this should be an on-going approach, given that everyone has a different cultural identity which will need to be responded to differently.

  1. The AID technique.

This is a technique for clearly and respectfully challenging the actions of others, if you perceive that action to be hurtful or harmful to someone based on their culture. Sometimes this technique may be avoided by asking more questions, if insight can be reached that way instead. The AID technique encourages people to describe the actions (A) of another person, the impact (I) of them, and suggests an alternative behaviour for them to ‘do’ (D) in response.

This may seem simple – and in many ways it is – but the clear 3 steps can help practitioners stay focused in their message without diluting the impact of it. In adoption, it could be used with families and colleagues alike.

Thank you to everyone at Amber and Greene for the training. More details are available via their website: