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Increasing Cultural Competency

Cultural competence is a set of  “behaviors, attitudes, and policies . . . in a system, agency, or among professionals, that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations.” (National Prevention Information Network)

The resources on this page are intended to help state deaf-blind projects provide services to culturally and linguistically diverse families. The guidance and tools are prioritized sequentially. If this topic is new to you, you’ll find it most helpful to complete the steps in the order listed.

"Culture" refers to integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups. "Competence" is the capacity to function effectively within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by individuals and their communities. (National Prevention Information Network)

Key Steps

Step 1: Watch the cultural competence webinar series

Collectively, the three webinars in the 2019 NCDB National Webinar Series on Cultural Competence provide an overview of culturally responsive practices for engaging and including families in your project’s work. 

Step 2: Explore the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of families on your child count

Review your child count’s race and ethnicity data. How does it compare to your state’s overall Race and Hispanic origin data (see U.S. Census Quick Facts—enter your state in the text box, top left)? 

Discuss with colleagues or write down what you already know about the culturally and linguistically diverse families with whom you work. This may be anecdotal information or come from your technical assistance documents.

Step 3: Examine your project’s current capacity

An assessment of your project's capacity can help you identify the resources and strengths you have to meet the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse families, as well as areas you would like address. A Guide to Planning and Implementing Cultural Competence: Organizational Self-Assessment provides an overview and suggestions. The following questions related to your project’s processes and procedures, and communication with families, may also be helpful.

Processes and Procedures

  • How do you find out about the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse families in your state? If your project sends out a Family Needs Survey, do you know if culturally and linguistically diverse families have completed it?  If not, how could you collect this information (e.g., focus group, individual phone calls to families)?  
  • Do your project goals and activities address the relevance of your services for a range of cultures?
  • What is your staff’s level of skill and expertise in serving culturally and linguistically diverse families?
  • Do you have a family advisory board?  If so, does it include family members from culturally and linguistically diverse groups? Alternatively, are there family members on your main project advisory group that could form a sub-committee devoted to this topic?
  • Does your grant have plans for how you will identify children who are deaf-blind from culturally and linguistically diverse communities?

Communication with Families

  • Is your staff representative of the cultures you serve? If not, do you have access to individuals external to your project who can help?
  • Do you incorporate information and images relevant to culturally and linguistically diverse families when developing brochures and other messaging materials?
  • Does your project have a language access plan? This might include funding for translation, interpreting, and outreach; external partners who provide resources; translation of project materials into languages commonly used in your state; and how to communicate with families when you do not have materials translated into their languages.

Given your current capacity, what can your project provide to culturally and linguistically diverse families and what can be referred to external organizations and agencies?

Step 4: Enlist Partners to Assist You in Your Outreach to Families


Establish a workgroup to assist in evaluating and planning your project’s current services to culturally and linguistically diverse families. Members should consist of families of individuals with deaf-blindness from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, as well as professionals with expertise in supporting diverse families. This group can help you with the following types of activities:

  • A review of the results of your self-assessment to identify gaps or things you may have missed
  • Selection of strategies to improve outreach and support 
  • Finding information about state and community resources to augment the services your project provides
  • Defining outcomes you hope to achieve related to improving your project’s services to these populations

Identify Entities to Which You Can Refer Families

Identify individuals, agencies, and organizations to which you can refer families for high-quality services. These may include family specialists (sometimes called cultural brokers or ambassadors) with relevant cultural backgrounds. For example, some PTIs or Hands & Voices chapters have individuals working or volunteering for them as cultural brokers or ambassadors. 

They can help in a number of ways, including:

  • Providing training for your staff
  • Assisting in finding and referring children who are deaf-blind from culturally and linguistically diverse communities
  • Providing TA and other services directly to families that your project is unable to offer (e.g., family groups)
  • Providing translation or interpreting


Tips for finding and collaborating with culturally responsive partners can be found in Part 1 of the 2019 National Webinar Series on Cultural Competence. Formal agreements or memoranda of understanding are important to make sure collaborative activities are clearly defined and implemented.

Step 5: Create an Action Plan

Using information gathered from your self-assessment and meetings with stakeholders and current or potential partners, develop an action plan that outlines what you plan to do to achieve your desired outcomes (identified in Step 4). Activities typically address outreach, child find, referral, and support for families, as well as training for referral partners (e.g., overview of deaf-blindness, common risk factors, impact on learning). 

The document Serving Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families: Planning Forms, includes both a “Partnership Planning Form” and a “State Deaf-Blind Project Planning Form.”

Step 6: Implement Your Action Plan

Finally, it’s time to implement your action plan. This step involves ongoing work within your project and with partners to work on activities. It’s also important to establish criteria for measuring success. See the Evaluation section of Providing Technical Assistance to Families : A Guide for State Deaf-Blind Projects for suggestions.



Additional Resources

Cultural Competence Resources 
An NCDB website page with links to general and population-specific resources on culturally responsive practices.

Equity and Cultural and Linguistic Competence: Resources to Consider 
Information from CADRE to assist states, parent centers, practitioners, and families to develop or improve cultural competence in their own practices or professional environments. 

Assessments to inform the development of organizational plans for strengthening cultural competence from the National Center for Cultural Competence.



National Prevention Information Network. (2020). Cultural competence in health and human services. (2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.