Cultural Proficiency

Does your youth-serving agency actively promote cultural proficiency?

Assess your organization's cultural proficiency, and brainstorm ways to enhance it by answering the following questions.

  1. Agency's overall goals
    Assess: What wording in your mission statement addresses the goal of embracing clients from different cultural backgrounds? 
    Enhance: How could your organization further address the goals of diversity and inclusion?

  2. Staff, board members, and volunteers
    Assess: How is your personnel diverse in race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion/ spirituality, gender, native language, sexuality, and age? 
    Enhance: In what ways could your staff, board, and volunteers be more reflective of the clients you serve?

  3. Policies
    Assess: What actions are your staff expected to take if clients or others involved with your agency behave in culturally inappropriate ways (e.g., making racist comments)? 
    Enhance: How could this policy best be communicated so that clients know exactly what happens if culturally inappropriate behavior occurs?

  4. Training
    Assess: What cultural proficiency training (one-time and ongoing) do you provide for your staff? 
    Enhance: What cultural proficiency training could you add in the next year?

  5. Environment
    Assess: What about your facility (the decorations, artwork, space distribution) makes it appear safe and inviting to your clients? 
    Enhance: What can you do to further ensure that your facility's atmosphere reflects the cultural backgrounds of your clients?

  6. Outreach
    Assess: How does your agency conduct outreach to youth of different cultural backgrounds? 
    Enhance: How could you conduct outreach to include a group that is underserved in your community?

  7. Activities for clients
    Assess: What culturally relevant activities have you provided for your clients recently? 
    Enhance: What culturally relevant activities can your agency plan for clients in the next year?

Ways to Make Everyone Feel at Home

Overall goals

  • Have your staff and clients create a "diversity statement" separate from your mission statement.
  • Establish a staff and client committee responsible for maintaining focus on cultural proficiency. Rotate participation.

Staff, board members and volunteers

  • On a regular basis, collect demographic data of your clients so that you can accurately assess how your staff board, members, and volunteers reflect clients' cultures.
  • When interviewing, ask candidates to share their experience in relating with diverse groups.
  • Give youth active roles in the interviewing and hiring processes.


  • Be sure staff and clients know what you mean by "cultural proficiency" and are able to recognize "culturally inappropriate" statements or behaviors.
  • Make sure clients know how to report culturally inappropriate behavior and assess whether they feel comfortable and safe doing so.


  • Ask other community service providers to train staff on specific cultural issues. For example, invite staff of local Native American alliances to talk with staff about the differences among Native American Tribes.
  • Host brown bag lunches in which staff discuss a book or article on specific cultural diversity topics.


  • Create a space, such as a bulletin board or mural, where clients and staff can post artwork, literature, or articles that reflect their cultures. Post reminders about not tolerating hateful speech.
  • Incorporate into the daily operations of your agency food, arts, and music of the different cultural groups you serve.
  • Have clients and people in the community help decorate the office space.


  • Recruit clients through religious groups, mobile services, and advertising in all areas of your community.
  • Create promotional materials that reflect the cultures in your community.
  • Be sure that promotional items are available in the languages spoken by your potential clients.

Activities for clients

  • Help youth put together skits, dances, and other performances that enhance their cultural identities.
  • Celebrate holidays that reflect all of the cultures that your agency represents.

This list is by no means exhaustive. We encourage your agency to develop creative ways to foster cultural proficiency and to share your ideas with others.

Thanks to Western States Youth Services Network's "Creating Culturally Competent and Diverse Agencies" toolkit for tips and starters.