Building culturally and linguistically competent services to support young children, their families, and school readiness

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By: Kathy Seitzinger Hepburn
Org: Annie E. Casey Foundation
Date: 2004

This tool kit has been created for the Annie E. Casey Foundation to help promote early childhood development and school readiness. While the tool kit was created in an American context, it is relevant for a Canadian audience.

The work of integrating cultural and linguistic competence into programs, service systems, and throughout communities can be challenging. This tool kit will be useful for families, community leaders, providers, and administrators - particularly those in early care and education, health care, mental health care, and other service systems. Its use is encouraged for anyone interested in welcoming and building on the strengths of culturally and linguistically diverse children, families, and communities.

The purpose of this tool kit is to provide guidance, tools, and resources that will assist communities in building culturally and linguistically competent services, supports, programs, and practices related to young children, their families. By offering services in culturally and linguistically meaningful ways, communities can engage all families and support young children being ready for school.

The tool kit defines cultural and linguistic competence and its priority for communities, with attention to:

  • Diversity and the cultural context of the family and community;
  • Understanding the impact of culture on child development;
  • Planning and implementing culturally and linguistically competent services;
  • Implications for early childhood services and school readiness; and
  • Strategies for preparing personnel and implementing culturally and linguistically competent services and supports.

The intent is to support a holistic approach and encourage cultural and linguistic competence across all systems that serve young children and their families and help young children grow up healthy, develop well, and enter school ready to learn. Throughout the tool kit, effort has been made to be inclusive of health, mental health, early intervention, and other services systems.

Although there may be extra emphasis on the early care and education settings where children spend much of their time growing, learning, and getting ready for school, the concepts and practices relevant to cultural and linguistic competence can be taken in by all those who serve children and their families in the communities where they live.

The tool kit is organized into seven major content sections.

  1. Introduction: Rationale, Literature Review, and Definitions
  2. Planning and Implementation: Self-Assessment and Planning Process
  3. Learning About Family and Community: Family Culture and Information Gathering
  4. The Early Care and Education Environment: Curriculum and Family Involvement
  5. Early Learning: Language and Literacy
  6. Family Friendly Communication: Interpreters, Translators, and Translated Materials
  7. Training: Provider and Personnel Preparation
This tool kit is available for download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (525 KB, 146 pages).