This January we will explore the supervisor competencies associated with Cultural Responsiveness, which demonstrates a working knowledge of, and sensitivity to the role the supervisor plays within a broader social context that includes historical and current inequalities across societal systems, including disparities and disproportionalities, and historical trauma; and the dynamics of diversity, respecting and learning from the unique characteristics and strengths of families and tribes, and applying these concepts and skills to enhance workforce ability to support individual and family function. Clint Mack, Child and Family Supervisor with Carver County Health and Human Services, has kindly agreed to share his thoughts on cultural responsiveness as a supervisor competency.

Culturally Responsive supervision is a critical component of quality child welfare services. To meet family needs the child welfare system must be able to adapt to each family’s diverse experiences and challenges. In every community people have unique identities related to ability, age, class, gender, language, nationality, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, size, etc. The unique identities require child welfare staff to be aware of the historical and current oppression or privilege based on these intersecting identities. Child welfare professionals must recognize the negative impact our system has on many populations. Families that identify as African American, American Indian, Latinx, or those with lower socioeconomic status have disproportional representation and disparities in child welfare services at every decision point.

Child welfare professionals need to demonstrate a strong commitment to ending disproportionality and disparities. The work requires individual reflection and learning as well as larger system change. The role of the supervisor in culturally responsive services is to clearly set expectations, support staff in the growth and development, model culturally responsiveness, and advocate for changing policies and procedures that limit cultural responsiveness.

Carver County utilizes the Signs of Safety Practice Framework which shares many of the same principles as cultural responsiveness. Signs of Safety guides our work with families and with each other by asking questions to learn about a family’s culture directly from them. The questioning approach also helps distinguish child safety concerns, complicating factors and judgements. This allows for a consideration of the unique strengths and perspectives of a family in order to build on those strengths for safety and wellbeing. Signs of Safety also utilizes group meetings for professionals as well as family’s natural safety networks. A safety network meeting is one of the most important culturally responsive practices because it gathers the experts in a family to help make culturally responsive decisions.

Carver County has committed to ending disproportionality and disparities, and aspire to culturally responsive supervision. Carver County has tracked disproportionality for many years, and there is a lot of work to be done to meet this goal. Carver County has demonstrated continued commitment to Signs of Safety and we are finding new ways to implement the practice principles. This includes starting to ask specific questions about culture during supervision and consultation:

  • What are strengths of this family’s culture that support child safety?
  • How is the culture of the family impacting their engagement with child welfare services?
  • What impact does historical trauma have with this family?
  • What blind spots might we have as it relates to the unique culture of this family?
  • What is one thing the family would say we could do differently to better respect their culture?

Carver County has consistently been a leader in Relative Kin Foster Care, which supports the culture of youth who cannot remain in their parent’s care. This has included working hard to identify relatives and helping those relatives remove barriers to become a foster parent. In 2021 Carver County hopes to take another step forward by more fully implementing the Family Finding Model into the practice with a new Family Finding Social Worker.

Carver County has also committed to increasing our understanding of societal inequities facing the families we serve through additional training and reflection. All our child welfare supervisors have led difficult discussions regarding equity and the unique experiences and perspectives each worker brings to their work. Through this reflection and personal growth, we hope to counteract implicit bias and personal judgement in our work. Carver County is also continuing to look for new ways to improve our practice. Carver County recently became a Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) site with hopes to find new ways to engage youth, birth parents, and foster parents.

Child welfare professionals have an overwhelming number of expectations placed on them every day. Many decisions made by these professionals are often made in the one on one consultation between the frontline worker and their supervisor. Supervisors and managers must be culturally responsive to the needs of the families and empower frontline workers to do the same.

The Minnesota Child Welfare Practice Framework is a set of competencies that have been created to assist child welfare professionals in defining and demonstrating their knowledge, skills, and understanding across a number of different practice areas. Refer to page 21 of the Practice Framework to review all competencies related to Cultural Responsiveness, and consider ways to develop your own knowledge and skills.

If you have discovered other resources for developing competencies in cultural responsiveness, please share! Email us at, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.