Office for Children with Special Health Care Needs

Cultural Competency

For OCSHCN, culture is more than language and interpretation. Culture influences what we take for granted in our everyday lives. Every family has expectations about what life will be like when their baby is born, which must be renegotiated when confronted with a special health care need. We make assumptions about parents' job participation, daycare, health care, school, everyday family life, and ultimately transition to adulthood and independence.

Institutions, such as health care, education, and work, are all designed with certain assumptions and rules for what is acceptable and how to participate. These assumptions and rules may present barriers to a person (or parent of a person) with special health care needs, who must constantly find ways to negotiate expectations. Sometimes personal adaptations are needed, but often full participation requires institutional change in terms of policies and practices.

OCSHCN offers resources and training on topics that include: breaking the diagnosis, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), resiliency in families, cultural beliefs about health, diversity of families, family centered care, medical home, care coordination, inclusion, and transition to adulthood.

If you are seeking information and resources on cultural and linguistic competence, see the National Center on Cultural Competence (NCCC) whose mission is to increase the capacity of health care and mental health care programs to design, implement, and evaluate culturally and linguistically competent service delivery systems to address growing diversity, persistent disparities, and to promote health and mental health equity. The NCCC also provides training, technical assistance, and consultation, contributes to knowledge through publications and research, creates tools and resources to support health and mental health care providers and systems, supports leaders to promote and sustain cultural and linguistic competency, and collaborates with an extensive network of private and public entities to advance the implementation of these concepts such as cultural brokering.