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Achieving Cultural Competence

A Diversity Tool Kit for Residential Care Settings

Achieving Cultural CompetencePrintable PDF

This tool kit was prepared exclusively for the Ministry of Children and Youth Services by Ruby Lam and Bernice Cipparrone, Diversity Specialists. While the Ministry has attempted to verify the accuracy of the information contained in this tool kit, users should not rely solely on this information to make decisions regarding children and youth in residential care. The content of the tool kit is provided by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services for informational purposes only and should not be taken as advice or recommendations for any particular decision regarding a child or youth in residential care. Use of the tool kit is voluntary.

There are web sites linked to and from this tool kit that are operated or created by or for organizations outside of the Government of Ontario. Those organizations are solely responsible for the operation and information (including the right to display such information) found on their respective web sites. These linked web sites may or may not be available in French. The linking to or from this site does not imply on the part of the Government of Ontario any endorsement or guarantee of any of the organizations or information (including the right to display such information) found on their respective web sites. The Government of Ontario does not assume and is not responsible for any liability whatsoever for the linking of any of these linked web sites, the operation or content (including the right to display such information) of any of the linked web sites, nor for any of the information, interpretation, comments or opinions expressed in any of the linked web sites. Any comments or inquiries regarding the linked web sites are to be directed to the particular organization for whom the particular web site is being operated.

Table of Contents


A. Common Misconceptions About Diversity Issues

B. The Case for Diversity

C. Standards

D. Getting Started

E. Achieving Cultural Competence in Residential Services:An Organizational Self-Assessment Tool

F. Local Diversity Initiatives

G. Additional Resources


The purpose of this tool kit is to inspire courageous discussions about difficult issues, thus opening the way to positive change.

Diversity organizational change: big words. But at the heart of it, diversity organizational change is about creating environments that respect differences in our society, where there is no one on the outside looking in, where all children and youth feel safe, and where we all belong.

Diversity refers to the range of differences among people. We are all diverse. We all belong to different groups and cultures. Our identities may be defined by our race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, language, physical or mental abilities, educational background, socio-economic status, rural or urban residence, as well as other factors.

There is nothing inherently good or bad about difference; it is what we make of it. With the right leadership and in the right environment differences can enrich our lives. Without that leadership, differences can be used to exclude and to cast people to the margins of society. The cost of exclusion is that children and youth who feel socially isolated or emotionally upset are less likely to be able to learn and achieve to their full potential, in school or in life.

Children and youth in residential care come from a variety of backgrounds and have a multitude of needs. This tool kit guides staff in creating residential care settings* that are competent in serving a culturally diverse range of children and youth. It is a primer that establishes basic concepts related to diversity: What is cultural competency and why is it important? What is discrimination and how do I recognize it? How do I bring about diversity organizational change? The tool kit is also written as a 'how-to' guide on assessing your organization's level of cultural competence and initiating concrete change.

Ontario is a vibrant mix of people with a wealth of talents to offer. But such a vibrant group has a variety of needs, some based on diverse cultural identity. Whatever our particular identity, we all want to feel welcome, understood, accepted, and safe. We all deserve to be included and to have our needs met.

It is our hope that this tool kit helps your organization make equity and inclusion a reality for all the children and youth that you serve. We wish you great success on your diversity journey.

Ruby Lam and Bernice Cipparrone
February 2008

* Licensed residential care settings include group homes, foster homes, provincially operated facilities, youth justice open and secure custody/detention facilities, and secure youth justice units in facilities shared with adults.

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Section A
Common Misconceptions About Diversity Issues

Checking Our Misconceptions About Diversity

Many people don't feel that diversity issues are relevant to their personal or professional lives, or to their organizations. Addressing the following common misconceptions about diversity is a good starting point for establishing the importance of these issues.

"These issues are not relevant to us. We don't have any diversity in our community."

Diversity exists in every community. Diversity doesn't refer only to race and ethnicity, but to the entire spectrum of human identity. While your community may be relatively homogenous in terms of race or ethnicity, there are other distinct social groups whose needs must be taken into consideration when delivering services (for example, gays and lesbians, people with disabilities, people of different religious beliefs, people of differing socioeconomic levels, etc.). Being culturally competent means to be competent across the entire range of social differences. In the context of diversity work, 'culture' is used in the broadest sense. You may have heard of the terms 'youth culture,' 'gay culture,' 'culture of the deaf,' etc.

"I don't see any discrimination here."

It would be difficult to find any community or organization that is completely free of discrimination or oppression. Staff and caregivers of licensed residential settings need to learn to recognize when discrimination occurs in order to respond to it. Some acts of discrimination occur between individuals and are easier to notice. Other forms of discrimination are embedded into the way organizations and society run, and are therefore harder to detect. Look out for the following manifestations of harassment and discrimination:

Name-Calling and Verbal Abuse
What you might see or hear:

Taunting and Teasing
What you might see or hear:

Unwelcome Remarks, Slurs, Jokes or Obscene Gestures
What you might see or hear:

What you might see or hear:

Bullying and Physical Violence
What you might see or hear:

Tolerance of Discrimination
What you might see or hear:

What you might see or hear:

Unequal Access to Services and Unequal Treatment
What you might see or hear:

"Why is the term 'cultural competency' used rather than 'cultural sensitivity'?"

The term 'cultural sensitivity' implies that diversity work is just about people being nice to one another. While having good interpersonal skills is certainly positive, cultural competency involves much more than that. Cultural competency is a professional skill that enables staff and organizations to serve their clients effectively and competently. Beyond simply treating diverse clients with sensitivity, culturally competent organizations actively identify and remove any barriers that prevent them from accessing and participating in the organization's programs and services. For licensed residential settings, cultural competency is no less an essential competency than making accurate assessments or developing appropriate plans of care.

"Our harassment policy is in place; we are in compliance. Why do we need to do more?"

Harassment policies usually apply to incidents between individuals. And while it is essential that organizations protect their staff, volunteers and clients from individual acts of discrimination, doing so is only one front of diversity work.

Harassment policies don't cover the work that organizations must do to address systemic discrimination. These are the policies and practices that disadvantage groups of people, and the ideas that foster discrimination. For example, Aboriginal children and youth in Canada faced systemic discrimination when they were not allowed to speak their first languages in residential schools (and when they were forced into residential schools in the first place). This was a result of the prejudicial ideas that people had about Aboriginal cultures, that they were inferior to Western cultures. These forms of discrimination are subtle and often hard to detect because they are institutionalized and look "normal."

A deeper probe into diversity issues would encourage organizations to ask tough questions like:

"We have cultural celebrations in our organization – isn't that enough?"

People come from different cultures and religions. Celebrating those differences is one step forward towards tolerance and understanding, but it's not enough. For example, tasting another culture's food is a wonderful way to open dialogue between people from different cultures. It does not, however, directly counteract the prejudices we may have about one other. Only through education and addressing our internal prejudices will stereotyping and discrimination end.

"We expect children to fit into the routines of their foster families. Is that a problem?"

While it is normal and necessary for children and youth to adapt to the routines of their foster families, they also bring with them beliefs and practices that are important to them as individuals. For example, the right of a child or youth to either practice his/her own religion or to practice no religion at all is stipulated in the Child and Family Services Act. This is especially important in instances where the child or youth comes from a different religious tradition than that practiced by the foster family or caregivers. Foster parents and staff of licensed residential settings can reinforce a child or youth's personal religious choice and dignity by helping them get to a place of worship such as a temple, mosque, church or synagogue.

Similarly, licensed residential settings should be sensitive to the possibility that child and youth from diverse cultures may not be accustomed to the food that the facility or family serves – sometimes so much so that it makes them ill – and refrain from pushing them to finish everything on their plates. Additionally, the practice of certain faiths includes dietary restrictions.

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Section B
The Case for Diversity

In This Section:

The Case for Diversity

Diversity is not a passing fad, but a permanent fixture. It is the lived reality within Ontario, this nation's most diverse province. Valuing diversity is at the heart of who we are as Canadians, a value enshrined in our multiculturalism laws.

Human service agencies in Ontario may take steps to become culturally competent for a variety of reasons, including:

What are Culturally Competent Services?

The Child Welfare League of America defines cultural competence as the "ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and faiths and religions, in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families and communities, and protects and preserves the dignity of each."

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The Benefits of Becoming Culturally Competent

Human service organizations have a lot to gain by valuing diversity and providing services to people from diverse social and cultural groups in ways that are respectful of those groups, as well as being accommodating to their diverse characteristics and needs. Why should human service organizations focus on diversity? First and foremost, because being culturally competent enables service providers to provide equitable, child-centred care.

There are clear benefits to licensed residential settings becoming culturally competent. Most important of these is the ability to positively impact the children and youth they serve by creating safe and supportive environments. Culturally competent licensed residential settings also benefit staff and foster families by creating inclusive work environments and homes where diverse perspectives and talents are unleashed for the benefit of all. And finally, cultural competence supports the organization's credibility and influence in the community.

The Benefits of a Culturally Competent Organization:

To Children and Youth

To Staff and Foster Parents

To the Organization

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Responding to The Diversity Within Ontario

Canada – and Ontario in particular - is distinguished as one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan areas of the world. The demographic reality of Ontario compels human service providers to consider and integrate the needs of diverse communities into their services and programs.

Canada Is A Diverse Nation, And Ontario Leads The Way
Racial/Cultural/Linguistic Diversity

Aboriginal People

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered People

Note: The 'T' in LGBT is now commonly understood to also include: transsexual, Two-Spirited (a positive First Nations term for people who are born with characteristics of both sexes), queer, gender questioning, gender variant, and intersexed.


*Source: Statistics Canada, Census 2001
**Source: Statistics Canada, Census 2006

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Impact of Health and Social Disparities

Research has established that social and economic barriers - such as poverty, social exclusion, job security, and level of education – are equally or more important to a person's health status than personal health behaviours or medical care(1). These factors, known as social determinants of health, have a significant impact on one's wellbeing. Marginalized groups such as immigrants, Aboriginal people, single parent families, and the poor experience a significant number of these barriers. Licensed residential settings should set clear strategies to reduce inequities in service delivery and outcomes related to factors such as race, gender, ethnicity, ability and sexual orientation.

Marginalized Populations Have Poorer Health Outcomes

Minority Populations Are More Likely To Live In Poverty

Aboriginal Children Have Unique Challenges


(1) Evans RG, Barer ML, and Marmor TR. (Eds) (1994). Why Are Some People Healthy and Others Not? The Determinants of Health of Populations. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

(2) Cairney, J., & Arnold, R. (1998). Socioeconomic position, lifestyle and health among Canadians Aged 18 to 64: A multi-condition approach. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 89(3), 208-212.

(3) Statistics Canada (2005). Dynamics of Immigrants' Health in Canada: Evidence from the National Population Health Survey in Statistics Canada, in Healthy Today, Healthy Tomorrow? Findings from the National Population Health Survey.

(4) Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (1995). Choosing Life: Special Report on Suicide among Aboriginal People. Downloaded from Health Canada's website.

(5) Health Canada (2003). From Cycle 2.1 of the Canadian Community Health Survey.

(6) Wilkinson, R. & Marmot, M. (Eds.) (2003). Social determinants of health: The solid facts. Copenhagen: World Health Organization.

(7) From "Aboriginal Children in Poverty in Urban Communities: Social Exclusion and the Growing Racialization of Poverty in Canada", 2003. Canadian Council for Social Development.

(8) United Way of Greater Toronto and Canadian Council on Social Development (2004). Poverty by Postal Code.

(9) Galabuzi, G.- E. (2004). Social Exclusion. In D. Raphael (Ed.), Social Determinants of Health – Canadian Perspectives. Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press

(10) Statistics Canada, Census 2001.

(11) Sherbourne Health Centre (2005). Document prepared by Anna Travers on statistics and facts of LGBTTQ community.

(12) Statistics Canada, custom tabulation, 1996

(13) Disabled Women's Network Ontario (2004). Fact Sheets on Women with DisAbilities.

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The Legal Framework for Diversity

There are many reasons why human service organizations will want to become competent in serving a diverse range of clients. Everybody has a place in this country — regardless of their age, disability, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, skin colour or socio-economic status. It's not only a moral right; it's a legal one, enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In a previous chapter, the potential benefits related to cultural competency were discussed. These are indeed the best reasons to become culturally competent: to provide children and youth with equitable, individualized care by ensuring that services are respectful of and responsive to their social and cultural needs.

But there is also a legal imperative for why organizations should become culturally competent. The rights to equality and culturally appropriate service delivery are stipulated in federal and provincial laws, including the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Individuals have the right to advocate for - and expect, within the boundaries of law - the accommodation of their cultural and other unique needs by service providers. Simply put, organizations that neglect to develop their capacity to serve diverse groups in society run the risk of being sued in a court of law (as well as risk becoming obsolete).

In addition to human rights legislation, the Child and Family Services Act, under which children's residential care is licensed and funded, states that services to children, youth and their families should be provided in a manner that respects cultural, religious and regional differences.

And finally, depending on your source of funding, your organization may be required to comply with various human rights policies relating to discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes (this is true, for example, for agencies funded by United Way of Greater Toronto and the City of Toronto). And while donor guidelines may not be legally binding, they represent another front where an organization may run into trouble if its services do not stay abreast of current demographic developments.

The following are highlights of the pertinent legislation (although organizations need to use the full text of any legislation for information and decision-making).

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act (1970)

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act sets the stage for different ethnic and linguistic groups to advocate that public service organizations provide services in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate for them. The provision of socially and culturally appropriate services by human service agencies would be an activity that is in compliance with the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. The Act obliges the Government of Canada to recognize and promote cultural, linguistic and racial diversity within the Canadian population.

Selected passages from Section 3.1 of the Act state:

It is hereby declared to be the policy of the Government of Canada to: recognize and promote the understanding that multiculturalism reflects the cultural and racial diversity of Canadian society and acknowledges the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage.

It is the policy of the Government of Canada to: ensure that all individuals receive equal treatment and equal protection under the law, while respecting and valuing their diversity.

It is the policy of the Government to: encourage and assist the social, cultural, economic and political institutions of Canada to be both respectful and inclusive of Canada's multi-cultural character.

The Canadian Human Rights Act (1981)
(Canadian Department of Justice)

The Canadian Human Rights Act specifies that all individuals in Canada shall have equal opportunity and have their needs accommodated. There are two important aspects of this Act. The first pertains to accommodation.

Section 2 of the Act states:

All individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society.

The implication of this Act is that individuals can demand that their needs - based on their particular characteristics such as race, gender, age, culture, disability - be accommodated by service providers. An example of this would be a request to have interpreters available to assist people who do not speak English or French.

The second critical element of the Canadian Human Rights Act is that it prohibits systemic discrimination. The Act defines systemic discrimination as "a seemingly neutral policy or practice, which in fact is discriminatory."

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it is unlawful for any employer or service provider to discriminate against anyone on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Sex (including pregnancy and childbirth)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • National or ethnic origin
  • Marital status
  • Colour
  • Family status
  • Religion
  • Mental or physical disability (including previous dependence on drugs or alcohol)
  • Pardoned conviction

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982)
(Canadian Department of Justice)

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrines in law the rights and freedoms of all people in Canada. It specifies that services for the public shall be delivered in an egalitarian manner while respecting and valuing diversity among citizens.

Section 15 of the Charter focuses on "Equality Rights" of Canadians:

(1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Section 28 of the Charter guarantees equal rights and freedoms to both men and women:

Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

Section 27 directs Canadians to value, preserve and maintain cultural diversity in the exercise of their rights and freedoms:

This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.

Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (2005)
(Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services)

The purpose of the AODA is to improve opportunities for people with disabilities by developing, implementing and enforcing standards for accessibility related to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation and buildings. The target date for reaching this goal is no later than January 1, 2025.

The Act requires organizations to:

The legislation also:


All people have the right to a workplace and to service provision that are free from oppression. Leadership within an organization means taking action to address inequality and discrimination when it occurs.

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What is Discrimination?

Prejudice is having a negative opinion or attitude toward a person or group of people because they are different. Discrimination is the effect or result of prejudice. It's any action that limits the opportunities of a person or group of people based on characteristics such as their age, disability, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, skin colour, or socio-economic status.

Some Types of Discrimination

Anti-Oppression Policies

Most agencies have an anti-oppression policy (may also be known as the anti-harassment, human rights, anti-racism, or anti-discrimination policy) in place that specifies the protections afforded to people who are employees, board members, volunteers or clients of the agency, as well as the sequence of steps that need to be taken should an incident of discrimination occur. Agencies may also have hate crimes policies in place. A hate crime is different from other forms of discrimination mainly because it is a criminal offence that must be reported to the police.

The last section of this tool kit lists several places where you can download the anti-harassment policies of educational, governmental, and human service institutions. An effective anti-harassment policy will have the following elements:

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Section C

In This Section:

Guiding Principles of Diversity Organizational Change

Usually, institutional efforts to address the needs of people from diverse communities are reactive (often in response to a human rights complaint) and dealt with as a one-off initiative (typically beginning and ending with 'diversity training 101'). If organizations don't take a long-term, proactive approach to diversity organizational change, it is subject to competing priorities and at risk of losing support.

Diversity organizational change is a holistic and strategic approach that regards cultural competence as no less critical in achieving an organization's mission than the hiring of qualified staff or the choice of safe foster families. The principles of diversity organizational change, described below, become embedded into every aspect of an organization's function.

In the ideal scenario, diversity organizational change is situated as a strategic priority that is adequately supported by the organization's leadership. Also, cultural competency is embraced by staff as an essential skill that enables them to properly serve their clients. And over time, a diversity infrastructure and momentum are established to the point where cultural competency is no longer a 'special initiative' for the organization, but becomes 'business as usual.'

A caveat: these principles and standards are offered as general guidelines to strive for, and not presented as requirements. Licensed residential services encompass a variety of settings, circumstances and levels of available resources to dedicate to diversity work. All or some of these standards may not be appropriate or achievable for all licensed residential settings.

Strong diversity initiatives are grounded in the following principles:

Recognizes Diversity

Diversity is commonly understood in dimensions that include: race, culture, language, faith/ religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, income, family status, literacy level, educational background, housing, immigration status, HIV status, and mental health status, among many other characteristics.

Strives For Inclusion

The principle of inclusion involves a clear recognition that people are sometimes treated unfairly or excluded because of their differences. To strive for inclusion means engaging underserved groups in meaningful ways and proactively removing the barriers to their participation.

Takes An Anti-Oppression Approach

All forms of oppression have common roots in inequality of power and privilege. Therefore, a diversity initiative that takes an anti-oppression approach doesn't work on just one "ism" but strives to end all forms of oppression.

Recognizes The Social Determinants Of Health

Certain life experiences have a profound impact on our ability to stay healthy and access the health system. They include: poverty, discrimination, level of literacy, cultural and linguistic barriers, homelessness, job security, etc.

Aims For Equity

Equity recognizes that treating people the same doesn't necessarily equate to equal outcomes. Equity means focusing on the results of equal access, equal service delivery, and the closing of health disparities.

Has Cultural Competency As Its Goal

Cultural competency is the ability of staff and organizations to respond to and effectively meet the needs of diverse groups of people. But it doesn't stop at learning about our differences: cultural competency also requires that we address the inequalities that different groups face in service access and delivery.

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The Gold Standard of Diversity Organizational Change

The gold standard of diversity organizational change requires that the values of equity, inclusion and cultural competence be entrenched in every aspect of the organization's operation: its strategic goals, policies, decision-making processes, governance structure, staffing plans, program planning, service delivery, evaluation, and outreach to communities. This summary of the components of diversity organizational change can be used in conjunction with the Organizational Self-Assessment Tool in Section E.

The gold standard of diversity organizational change entails:

Leadership From The Top

Adequate Resources

Representative Governance

Culturally Competent Service Delivery

Diverse Staff

Organizational Capacity

Community Engagement


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Section D
Getting Started

In This Section:

Getting Started: A 10-Point Plan

Diversity organizational change is a journey, and every organization must strike its own path. Different organizations have different levels of resources to commit to this issue. Whatever your circumstances, it is critical that you develop a diversity strategy that identifies viable goals, engages the right stakeholders, and outlines realistic steps going forward. The following is offered to assist you in developing your own strategy for diversity organizational change.

Some advice on getting started: learn from those who have made deeper inroads on diversity issues; don't reinvent the wheel. Find out what similar organizations have done and adapt their processes and resources to fit your needs. Seek mentoring opportunities with organizations that are more advanced in their diversity planning and implementation. Pursue information about cultural competency (see Section G on Additional Resources). There is a lot of excellent free information on cultural competency that is available on the Web.

Step 1: Form a Committee

Develop support for change throughout the organization. Where applicable, create a Cultural Competence Committee (can also be named the Diversity, Equity or Anti-Oppression Committee) that is representative of the senior leadership, policymaking, human resources, administration, service delivery, and the community. The committee can serve as the primary governing body for planning, implementing, and evaluating organizational cultural competence.

Step 2: Boldly State Your Organization's Commitment to Diversity

Develop a diversity policy statement that is fully endorsed by the senior leadership and the Board of Directors. The diversity policy statement commits the organization to cultural competence as an integral part of the organization's mission and its activities. Communicate the statement widely to staff, caregivers, and the public. Doing so will signal your agency's commitment to diverse communities and readiness to take action to meet their needs.

Step 3: Conduct an Organizational Self-Assessment

Do a comprehensive cultural competence assessment of your organization using the Organizational Self-Assessment Tool in Section E. Assess your current level of cultural competence: What knowledge, skills, and resources can you build on? Where are the gaps? Identify opportunities and any potential barriers to progress.

Step 4: Assign Dedicated, Expert and Sufficient Resources to This Work

Use a diversity professional or other expertise to guide the planning and development of the strategy, and to serve as the catalyst for ensuring diversity issues permeate the organization in an integrated and strategic manner.

Step 5: Create a Diversity Action Plan

Use the assessment results and the "Gold Standard" list to develop a long-term plan to incorporate culturally competent principles, policies, structures, and practices into all aspects of your organization. Develop goals, implementation steps and deadlines for achieving them: Who can do what, when, and how? Identify barriers to working within your organization: What/who will stop you or slow you down? Ensure that the diversity plan is in sync with, and integrated into, your organization's strategic and business plans. Commit to an ongoing evaluation of progress and be willing to respond to change. Set clear mechanisms for accountability to ensure that diversity work is done, and done well. Communicate this plan throughout the organization.

Step 6: Establish a Baseline

Establish a baseline of your community and the groups you currently serve. Find out which cultural groups exist in your community and the extent to which they use and are satisfied with your services. This baseline will shape your outreach and community engagement goals. It can be used to benchmark progress against your diversity goals.

Step 7: Determine Your Organization's Professional Development Needs

Find out what your organization's staff and caregivers perceive as their professional development needs with regard to interacting with cultural groups. Provide diversity training to the Board of Directors, staff, volunteers and foster families. Create continuous learning opportunities for these groups to build their competence in diversity issues.

Step 8: Diversify Your Staff, Board of Directors and Foster Families

If you have one, appoint members of equity-seeking communities to your Board, signaling the needs and perspectives of these communities are respected and integral to your agency's mission. Your organization will benefit from their cultural knowledge and connections to communities. Fill vacant staff positions with members of underrepresented communities. Include cultural competency as a core requirement in job descriptions.

Step 9: Actively Remove Barriers to Opportunities and Services

Check to ensure that your organization is accessible to diverse and marginalized groups. Programs and services should be relevant to the needs of diverse communities. Promotional materials and important forms should be culturally appropriate, translated, user/child-friendly, easily accessible, and in a variety of formats. Ensure that your licensed residential setting is fully accessible for people with disabilities.

Step 10: Forge Partnerships with Diverse Communities

Community engagement means building long-term equal relationships rooted in mutual benefit and respect. Engaging diverse communities is an effective way for organizations to gather pertinent cultural information, accelerate their introduction into communities, and attract diverse volunteers and foster families. The reward to organizations in engaging diverse communities is having communities that support their work and give them their trust. All communities care about their children and youth, and if approached with integrity, will be eager to collaborate with you to support them.

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Tips for Staff and Foster Parents on Becoming Culturally Competent

This diversity tool kit focuses on organizational change. But what about front-line workers who wish to build their comfort level and cultural competence when working with children and youth from different cultures?

The following are tips for people who work in cross-cultural settings. It is adapted from Barbara Bole Williams' Culturally Competent Mental Health Services in the Schools: Tips for Teachers (available from the National Association of School Psychologists).

For those who wish to build their cultural competency specifically related to LGBT youth, Children's Aid Society of Toronto (CAST) has developed resources on working with this population (see the description of CAST's work in Section F on Local Diversity Initiatives). Readers should also refer to the seminal book on this topic, No Safe Bed – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Youth in Residence (see Section G on Additional Resources).

Values and Awareness

Cultural Competence in Action

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Section E
Achieving Cultural Competence in Residential Services:
An Organizational Self-assessment Tool

Adapted by Bernice Cipparrone, from Achieving Cultural Competence – Children's Mental Health, Karen Wolma Sappleton and Bernice Cipparrone, 2006, Child Development Institute


Organizational Assessment of Cultural Competence

This dynamic self-assessment tool is designed for Licensed Residential Settings to measure their progress towards cultural competence. The tool is not mandatory, but should be considered a best practice towards achieving goals. Use of the tool enables an organization to create a baseline within a clear framework for gradual progression. Use of the tool should not be considered as a pass or fail experience. Organizations will be in various stages in the area of cultural competence. The objective is to assist the organization in setting goals and identifying areas for growth rather than just merely rating performance. The tool focuses on four key components of residential services: Administration, Human Resources, Intake and Admissions, Programs and the interrelationships within these.

How to Use the Tool

It is suggested that all levels of the organization, Board (where one is in place), Management, and staff be involved in the self-assessment process. In the case of foster care and/or smaller licensed residential settings where this is not applicable, all those individuals responsible for the operation and administration of the delivery of service should be involved. This can be performed by the appropriate individuals jointly or independently with final results summarized and shared. The consensus scores are then entered in the Score Sheet. Through a final discussion and summation of the results, a plan of action is jointly developed to ensure cultural competence. This process ideally needs to be linked to the annual operational planning process. The plan is to be entered in the Cultural Competence Goal and Action Plan Sheet.

Each level of achievement of criteria is numbered and represents the score the licensed residential setting should give itself. For example number 1 under Administration "The definition of cultural competence…" If the licensed residential setting has a service plan with the definition time frame and action plan it will score a 3. The score is then entered in the last column of the table and then a total can be tallied at the end. The total score will provide an overview of how the setting is performing in terms of cultural competence.

It is recognized that each licensed residential setting may score in different places within each component for a number of reasons. In some components scores may be higher than others. It is suggested that all licensed residential settings aim for a minimum score of a least a three (3) in every category of each component. To allow for some flexibility in addressing particular issues, some of the variables are broadly defined. The administrator of the tool should be mindful when categorizing individuals unless they are given the opportunity to self-identify, which would be the preferred method.

Criteria 1: Administration
Does not meet Criteria
Needs Improvement
Meets Criteria
Exceeds in some areas of Standard
Exceeds in all areas of Standard
Score (out of 5)
1. The organization has a definition of cultural competency and identifies how the organization will work to achieve it. No evidence. The definition is limited, and no plan identified. Definition is developed through research/outreach to diversity expertise and a plan and timeframe is identified. Specific resources are committed to achieve the plan. The Board (where available) or senior management demonstrates ongoing monitoring and commitment to achieving the plan.  
2. Where a Board of Directors exists, the Board of Directors reflects/ represents the diversity of the client population. No diversity represented in Board composition; no outreach to bring in a diversity perspective. No diversity represented in Board members; diversity of client population is acknowledged. Board composition includes members that represent the diversity of the client population; Board decisions are guided by cultural competency. The requirement for diversity among Board members is specific and there is a recruitment strategy to achieve this. The diversity of the client population is fully reflected in the Board composition.  
3. The mission, vision and value statements of the licensed residential setting commit to the delivery of culturally and linguistically competent services. There is no reference in the mission, vision or value statements. The licensed residential setting does state a commitment in the mission, vision and value statements. The mission, vision and value statements are in child friendly language. Meets criteria 3; children and youth are consulted. Meets criteria 4; materials are available in pictorial form or child's first language.  
4. The organization has written policies and procedures that address individual and systemic discrimination/ harassment. The organization does not have policies and procedures available. The organization has a comprehensive policy with procedures posted. The organization has a comprehensive policy with procedures available to staff, children/youth in ways that promote understanding. Meets criteria 3 and invites full participation of members of the community and the child and youth to review the policy every three years. The organization consults with someone with cultural competence expertise to create policies and procedures.  
5. The residential setting has procedures that address incidents of discrimination. The residential setting does not have a procedure in place. The residential setting has procedures that address incidents of discrimination. The residential setting has procedures that address incidents of discrimination available in child friendly language. The incidents are documented and summarized annually, and shared with the Board of Directors (where available) and with children and youth. Meets criteria 3 and the summary is shared with all staff at the residential setting and utilized to plan for staff, Board (where available) and volunteer training. Meets criteria 4 and resources allocated to provide ongoing planning and training.  
6. The organization has ways to receive input about, and report on, cultural competent services. No involvement from diverse communities. No information about the organization's services shared. The organization actively seeks input from diverse communities. The organization actively seeks the input from children/youth, families and other representatives from diverse communities in the planning and evaluation of culturally competent services. The organization uses input received to design and deliver culturally competent services and communicates progress to staff. The organization has a structure and ongoing process in place to receive input and provides information on implementing culturally competent services to a variety of stakeholders, through a variety of means e.g., information to the Board of Directors (where available), children/youth/ families, placing agencies, the local community through reports, newsletters, advisory committees and a web site.  
Criteria 2: Human Resources
Does not meet Criteria
Needs Improvement
Meets Criteria
Exceeds in some areas of Standard
Exceeds in all areas of Standard
Score (out of 5)
1. The organization has a human resources strategy to recruit and retain staff who can meet the diverse needs of the client population. No strategy in place. The needs of the client population and the staffing strategy to meet them have been identified. The organization actively recruits for skills and perspectives related to cultural competency, provides orientation to staff about cultural competency expectations and has incorporated cultural competency as an integral part of the performance management system. The organization identifies and uses a variety of ways to address the diverse needs of children and youth. For example, hiring staff who speak the predominant language of the client population, providing regular education and training for staff, volunteers, and Board members (where available) about cultural competency. The organization actively promotes and supports staff and volunteers to increase cultural competency, provides training and outreach for other organizations and formally reviews the human resource strategy each year to maintain or increase the organization's cultural competency.  
2. Residential setting has an annual education and training plan in cultural competence. Training plan does not include specific reference to cultural competence. The plan includes focus on cultural competence for clinical residential staff only. The plan includes annual training focusing on all levels of the organization to ensure cultural competence occurs. Cultural competence training is mandatory for all levels of the residential setting/ organization. Training in cultural competence is linked to quality improvement efforts.  
3. Options and opportunities for diversity training (external to the operator) of all residential services are supported. Staff are not provided with any support to seek diversity training external to the organization. Staff are permitted to participate in diversity training external to the organization. Staff are supported through time from work to participate in diversity training external to the organization. Staff are supported through time and financial compensation to participate in diversity training external to the organization. Staff are able to utilize and transfer knowledge from their external training to incorporate within their residential setting/ organization.  
Criteria 3: Intake and Admissions
Does not meet Criteria
Needs Improvement
Meets Criteria
Exceeds in some areas of Standard
Exceeds in all areas of Standard
Score (out of 5)
1. Intake and Admissions process interviews children and youth in a manner that recognizes cultural context. All questions are close-ended based solely on mainstream philosophy of intake and admissions. Intake and Admissions process allows for open discussion and asks children and youth about their cultural context. Intake and Admissions process actively seeks information about the children and youth to describe their perceptions, values and traditions. Intake and Admissions process seeks information about the parent/guardian cultural context, recognizes parents' rights related to culture and identifies any impacts of differing cultural perspectives between children and youth and the parent(s). The information related to the children and youth and family's cultural context is understood and used to develop the plan of care.  
2. Intake and Admissions process incorporates the effect of oppression/ discrimination on the children and youth. Intake and Admissions process ignores issues of oppression/ discrimination on the children and youth. Intake and Admissions process acknowledges the oppression/ discrimination of the children and youth. Intake and Admissions process integrates children and youth description of his/ her experience of oppression/ discrimination. Meets criteria 3 and Intake and Admissions process allows time for discussing strengths, skills and tools the child or youth has developed out of his/her experiences of oppression/ discrimination. Meets criteria 4 and Intake and Admissions process acknowledges the power differential between children and youth and the professional. Opportunities for reflection are provided.  
3. The licensed residential setting develops a plan of care recognizing the diversity of the children and youth/family. Residential setting does not provide a plan that recognizes the diversity of the children and youth/family. Residential setting provides a plan of care but does not recognize the diversity of the children and youth/family. Residential setting provides a plan of care recognizing the diversity of the children and youth/family. Meets criteria 3 and children and youth/ family participate in the development of the plan of care. Meets criteria 4 and plan of care is reviewed regularly with children and youth/family to ensure consistency with diversity of the children and youth/family.  
Criteria 4: Programs
Does not meet Criteria
Needs Improvement
Meets Criteria
Exceeds in some areas of Standard
Exceeds in all areas of Standard
Score (out of 5)
1. The organization acknowledges diverse perspectives, preferences of children and youth/families and incorporates these into all programs and services. No acknowledgement of diversity or use of diverse perspectives. The organization acknowledges that the client population has diverse perspectives however programs and services are not influenced by these. Respect for, and use of diverse perspectives is identified in the organization's program description/ model. Programs/services use evidencedbased practices related to various cultural groups. The organization uses active outreach and partnership with children and youth/ families and others to develop, design, deliver and evaluate culturally competent programs and services.  
2. The residential setting supports and reflects the cultural diversity and preferences of the client population, including the preparation of traditional and cultural foods t hat reflect the diversity of the children and youth being served. No support or reflection of cultural diversity and preferences of the children and youth. The residence identifies specific times or days for support/reflection of cultural diversity. Efforts to accommodate the cultural diversity and preferences of children and youth in daily living and routines. The residence provides written and symbolic materials that demonstrate respect for cultural diversity and supports possession of culturally relevant materials by children and youth whenever possible. The residence regularly seeks and uses feedback from children and youth and families to create a living environment that is respectful of cultural diversity.  
3. Residential setting uses interpreters for ethno-specific groups who request services. No interpreters provided. The residential setting has a policy to provide interpreters. The residential setting has a policy and is able to provide trained interpreters face to face and/or telephone services within 24 hours. The residential setting has a policy and is able to provide trained interpreters face to face as well as telephone service upon entry for the children and youth. Meets criteria 4 and has children and youth evaluate the effectiveness of the services.  

Score Sheet

Service Provider :

Residential setting :

Recorder :

Date :

Score Sheet
Human Resources
Intake and Admissions
Total Score

Goal and Action Plan Sheet


Service Provider:


Residential Setting:

Score Sheet
Criteria Section Item #
Criteria / Goal Plan / Follow-up
(detail plan and compliance date for all areas not meeting Criteria)
Date Assessment Completed
Please check one criteria
  1. Administration
  2. Human Resources
  3. Intake and Admissions
  4. Programs

Additional Comments:


Residential Setting Individual in-charge:


Ministry Consultant/Liaison:

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Section F
Local Diversity Initiatives

In This Section:

Local Diversity Initiatives

The composition of our communities is constantly changing. To be an effective service provider in this environment means responding to this change. Adopting a diversity agenda is an ongoing journey of learning to best meet the needs of the clients you serve. This section offers the perspectives of six agencies that have journeyed the diversity trail and incorporated diversity into their organizational DNA.

All the organizations profiled here provide residential services for children and youth, except one program that serves at-risk youth in a drop-in setting. Some organizations have sizeable capacity and are located in large urban centres, while others are in smaller communities and have accomplished much with fewer resources. However, they all share one thing in common: these organizations have made significant headway in becoming culturally competent, largely due to the strong leadership of their executive directors and Board of Directors. Their stories demonstrate that whatever the size of the organization, it is possible to take concrete steps in becoming more inclusive.

These six organizations were nominated by their peers. A call was made to field staff within the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and to community stakeholders asking them to identify children and youth-serving organizations that have made headway in becoming culturally competent. There was a tremendous response to this call. While it was not possible to unearth all the significant work that is underway in this area, the following profiles are meant to inspire thought, mentor, and spark licensed residential settings across Ontario to embark on the diversity journey.

William W. Creighton Youth Services (Thunder Bay and Kenora):
Native Culture and Spirituality as a Path to Healing

Engagement and relationships are the true medicine, and perhaps the best defense against future trouble with the law. This is the philosophy that guides the staff at William W. Creighton Youth Services, an integrated set of residential and community based programs for children and youth who have been continuously involved in criminal behaviour. Native children and youth comprise anywhere from 80%-100% of the total client base at any given time.

William Creighton's cultural competence in serving Native children and youth is manifest in many ways. First, Native community members and organizations come into Creighton on a regular basis to provide therapeutic care for the residents: smudging, one-on-one counselling, healing circles, and ceremonies that honour ancestors as a way to facilitate the grieving process. Traditional spirituality and healing practices coexist with conventional medicine; the local psychiatrist, Native healers, and Creighton Staff work seamlessly together.

Secondly, Creighton provides continuous opportunities for the children and youth to learn about their culture. For example, community elders teach the youth Native arts; there are traditional feasts every season, as well as a fall harvest; and the youth have an opportunity to cook Native food. Native imagery is visible everywhere: from adorning the walls to carvings in the tabletops at their facilities. A Cultural Committee, composed of staff, members of the Board of Directors and community elders, is active in planning a steady stream of cultural events at Creighton.

The key benefit of this constant engagement with community and culture is that when the children and youth leave Creighton, they will have formed positive trusting relationships with community members that are safe alternatives to the ones that were linked to their criminal past. They will also leave with a strong sense of who they are - historically, culturally, and spiritually – which equips them, perhaps, with the best chances for a trouble-free future.

The therapeutic potential of becoming rooted in one's culture is illustrated in the story of a young woman who was taught how to make a Jingle Dress by a community elder. She says: "Making this dress is one of the stepping stones in my life…I will always stay connected with my culture, my dress will also help with respect not only for me but for other people because it will bring me back to all the teaching that I have received while doing this dress." Through the making of this dress, a relationship blossomed, as well as a sense of self.

Many of the children and youth at Creighton come from remote northern areas. The staff concur with research that concludes that many of the negative behaviours expressed by Native children and youth is a result of unacknowledged grief. Accordingly, Creighton makes it a priority for children and youth from remote areas to be flown home – even at great expense - to attend funerals. This understanding of the wider context of their residents' lives demonstrates great cultural competence.

And what about the non-Native children and youth at Creighton? As the Executive Director says, "We don't prescribe, we offer. Some of our Native kids are Christian, in fact, and we will find cultural or spiritual connections for any youth, as they need it and request it. But we have found that the traditional teachings and celebrations are of interest to everyone, not just to the Native kids."

Although the children and youth at Creighton are predominantly Native, only about 20% of the staff are from this cultural heritage. A diverse staff complement that reflects the clients is very rare and difficult to achieve. The secret is to have a culturally competent team: "We have a staff that is very open to learning."

The Value of This Work
"If we didn't do all this we wouldn't be responsive to our kids. These kids were not born with labels, yet they face so many barriers in life. We are simply trying to take down some of those barriers."

Contact Person

Keith Zehr, Executive Director, William W. Creighton Youth Services

1014 Oliver Road, P.O. Box 10632
Thunder Bay, ON P7B 6V1
(807) 345-4456

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Pioneer Youth Services (Waterloo): Cultivating an Appreciation for Difference in a Homogenous Environment

Pioneer Youth Services is a per diem long-term residential care and treatment facility for children and youth with behavioural, emotional, mental health, and developmental challenges. It is an agency that is familiar with diversity: at any given time, a third of its residents are visible minorities, and 40% have disabilities. Interestingly, it is located in Waterloo, an area that is fairly homogenous. What does cultural competency mean for an agency where its residents are routinely perceived as 'different' by the surrounding community?

For Glory To, Pioneer's Executive Director, being culturally competent means building up the confidence and pride of identity of those children and youth who are perceived as different, while cultivating appreciation for differences amongst all the residents. Glory states: "Up front, we recognize that one's heritage and culture are essential for positive self image. We take every opportunity to help a child maintain and learn about their heritage. We believe these are the best defenses against prejudice and bias."

Upon admission, the staff look beyond social history and collect pertinent information about a child's cultural background: their home practices, food preferences, and personal appearance. Pioneer helps children and youth learn about their own and other people's cultures through:

Pioneer normalizes differences by providing one-on-one staff support for children and youth with disabilities so they can participate in the same activities as the rest of the children (i.e. a trip to the YMCA). The staff also empower children and youth with disabilities by supporting their participation in local and provincial competitions of the Special Olympics.

The Value of This Work
"Doing this work improves the children's self image, builds up their sense of security, and decreases their isolation. It also reduces prejudice in the Home (Pioneer Youth Services). Especially in areas that are fairly homogeneous, everyone needs to learn about diversity."

Contact Person
Glory To, Executive Director Pioneer Youth Services
26 Dorset St. Waterloo, ON N2L 3L5
(519) 884-3985 x222

Children's Aid Society of Toronto: Bold Organizational Change

Children's Aid Society of Toronto (CAST), with headquarters in downtown Toronto, works with the full spectrum of diversity found in this city. Rather than shy away, CAST has met the challenge of serving a diverse clientele head-on, and today stands out for its leadership in both anti-oppression work and cultural competency. Some notable features of CAST's anti-oppression, anti-racism organizational change efforts include:

Courageous and Visionary Leadership
CAST adopted its Anti-Oppression, Anti-Racism Policy in 2006. This shift elevated the agency from just simply having a diversity perspective to making a bold commitment to address the oppression and racism experienced by many of its stakeholders. This progressive leadership can be seen in CAST's outreach materials to the LGBT community to encourage gay and lesbian families to foster and adopt children, which recognizes and squarely counters negative stereotypes. Also, CAST's 1995 policy on better serving LGBT children and youth - and its subsequent implementation - is recognized across North America as leading edge and unique in child welfare.

CAST also believes in taking risks when it may benefit children and youth from diverse backgrounds. For example, CAST launched a unique, innovative and very successful partnership with Somali agencies where a joint plan of action is developed for the expedited return of Somali children and youth to their families or within the community after having been admitted to care.

Community Engagement in Practice
CAST recognized early on that a plan must include the participation of Toronto's diverse communities in order to be useful. Accordingly, CAST actively seeks the advice of community partners when they plan and implement programs. For example, CAST has tailored programs for LGBT, Somali, and Tamil children, youth and families, which it delivers in conjunction with community-based agencies. Furthermore, CAST has had a community development program in place for forty years, helping newcomer communities across Toronto develop and deliver services for their children and youth.

Excellent Training and Resources
Anti-oppression training is taken seriously at CAST. Staff time is formally dedicated to the creation of anti-oppression curriculum, training, and organizational capacity building. CAST is a member of the Ontario Children's Aid Society Diversity Trainers Group, and helped develop an anti-oppression, anti-racism training curriculum for child welfare practitioners across Ontario. As such, all CAST staff will be trained in this new curriculum. The Black Education and Awareness Committee, comprised of agency staff and foster parents, plans events throughout the year for black children and youth in the Society's care. CAST's Out and Proud Program has developed a resource manual on working with LGBT youth in care, which includes best practice guidelines and a chapter specifically on working with LGBT youth in residential settings. CAST also provides training for front-line workers on LGBT issues.

A Well-Developed Infrastructure to Support Diversity
The Bridging Diversity Committee – whose membership includes senior staff and members of the Board - spearheads diversity work at CAST. Phase 1 of its Anti-Oppression, Anti-Racism Policy Implementation Framework includes the following components:

Anti-Oppression, Anti-Racism Policy Implementation Committees are being established in service and service support areas across the organization to identify what needs to be done to implement the Policy. Each Committee will be co-chaired by the area representative on the Bridging Diversity Committee.

The Value of This Work
"We have come to appreciate that we will only be successful in bridging our services to diverse communities by working in partnership with them and by listening to and acting on their wise and informed advice. Build positive relationship with diverse communities and all things become possible."

Contact Person
Sharron Richards
Manager of Community Development & Prevention Services
Children's Aid Society of Toronto
30 Isabella Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 1N1
(416) 924-4646

SYL Apps Youth Centre (Oakville):
Addressing Diversity as Core to Achieving Mission

Syl Apps Youth Centre is an accredited child and youth mental health facility that is a program of Kinark Child and Family Services. Syl Apps is a residential facility that is comprised of three 'secure' programs for adolescents: detention, custody and treatment. Many of the children and youth admitted to Syl Apps have a diagnosed mental disorder, and as a result of that disorder, have caused or attempted to cause serious bodily harm to themselves or other people. Some children and youth have underlying disorders that impact on their relationships with others.

While many organizations regard diversity work as an optional 'special initiative,' the Syl Apps Youth Centre integrates diversity into its core business. For Syl Apps, ensuring optimal treatment for the children and youth under its care means providing highly individualized care. Inherent in this client-centred approach is a natural regard for diversity – that is, all the aspects that have impact on an individual's life, including a person's social and cultural identity, as well as the surrounding environment and circumstances in which the individual exists (the social determinants of health).

Kinark regards diversity as a corporate strategic priority. All of its programs are required to create annual plans that address diversity as part of their efforts to ensure excellent, quality services. The existence of a full-time Diversity Coordinator to support the programs is a clear demonstration of the organization's commitment to diversity as a strategic imperative. All new staff attend a diversity education day as part of their orientation to Kinark.

The diversity lens is one aspect of Syl Apps' approach that focuses on individual specific needs. About 60% of the residents at Syl Apps are Black or Aboriginal. Staff at Syl Apps work with each child and youth to create their own Individual Plan of Care. This Plan carefully considers the child or youth's personal background, individual circumstances and needs, and family beliefs. Priority is given to keeping close links to a child or youth's natural support network, which may include the Children's Aid Society worker, probation officer, as well as family and community members.

Cultural competence in Syl Apps' services and programs include:

The Value of This Work
"We do this (diversity work) because it is an integral way of achieving our mission. The only way to address the social and mental wellbeing of our youth is to address the specificity of who they are and their environment."

Contact Person
Carolyne Hooper, MSW, RSW
Director, Youth Justice and Secure Treatment

Syl Apps Youth Centre, Kinark Child and Family Services
475 Iroquois Shore Rd.
Oakville, ON L6H 1M3
(905) 844-4110, ext 2201

Bayfield Homes, Eagle Rock Lodge Program (Consecon): 'It Takes a Village to Raise a Child' and Other Traditional Teachings

Perhaps all the guidance you need to help a lost child find his way home can be found in traditional Native teachings. The staff at Bayfield Homes Eagle Rock Lodge Program embrace First Nations teachings to help the 'hard-to-serve' children and youth under their care.

Bayfield is a per diem rural residential treatment facility for male children and youth who have experienced psychiatric, psychological, social and/or academic difficulties. The Eagle Rock Lodge Program is a culturally competent residential program designed to accommodate the cultural needs of First Nations children and youth, who make up almost all its clients.

It is not uncommon at Bayfield to hear children and youth talk about the Seven Teachings within First Nations culture: Truth, Bravery, Love, Honesty, Humility, Wisdom and Respect. These teachings shape all of the group work in the Eagle Rock Lodge Program.

A focus of Eagle Rock is on restorative justice - again, a traditional Native teaching - that promotes accountability for personal behaviour and making amends to the wider community.

Eagle Rock also holds daily "talking circles," an opportunity for the children and youth to discuss their day, any concerns they may have, or ideas they may want to share. During the circle, the children and youth are encouraged to help plan the day's events. This is characteristic of Eagle Rock's ongoing approach of cultivating a strong sense of the collective within the children and youth.

Aside from the strong traditional teachings that shape their programming and interactions with the children and youth, Eagle Rock also actively engages the Native community in its recreational and treatment programs. "A strong sense of community has been developed and the notion that we are responsible for each other and to help each other is encouraged" says the Executive Director, Mary Margaret Fuller.

Eagle Rock takes the children and youth out to the community where they participate in pow wows, the maple syrup harvest, and traditional cooking, as well as drumming and dancing festivals. Local elders lead these events, and also teach the children and youth spiritual rituals such as creating medicine bags and dream catchers. The hope is that through these activities the boys have access to the guidance of the elders, and build enduring relationships with them.

What is interesting about Eagle Rock is that none of the staff is, in fact, Native. When Bayfield first contemplated the creation of this program they struggled with the ethical dilemma of whether a non-Native staff could do justice to Native children and youth. With much support and encouragement from the local Native community and from other service providers, they decided to go ahead and are now a respected and successful program. Taking steps to diversify their staff is, however, a strategic priority for the organization.

Eagle Rock's staff is culturally competent largely because they are so open to learning: "There is no shame from either the program staff or the youth in not knowing all aspects of the First Nations culture and the attitude has been that we are on a unique journey together to learn about ourselves, our community and the world at large."

The Value of This Work
"This approach gives us an opportunity to learn about the culture of our children and to foster strong relationships as we grow together. Ideally, children and youth in Ontario should be able to access culturally sensitive therapeutic programming within their own communities."

Contact Person
Mary Margaret Fuller, Executive Director
Bayfield Homes Ltd. – Eagle Rock Lodge Program
P.O. Box 10
Consecon, ON K0K 1T0
(613) 392-3551 ext.239

Youthlink (Toronto):
Addressing the Social Determinants of Health

Cultural competency in service delivery requires consideration of the social and economic conditions that have profound impact on the lives of individuals. Such factors are known as the social determinants of health. YOUTHLINK, an accredited community-based children's mental health centre, has taken clear leadership in creating programs for homeless and street-involved youth that squarely address the social determinants that impact this population, such as homelessness, social exclusion, violence, poverty, and unemployment (street-involved is defined as youth who engage in panhandling, the sex trade, 'squeegeeing' or drug dealing).

YOUTHLINK offers a range of programs including counseling, community outreach and development initiatives, co-op housing, a residential treatment program, and a family support program for youth with disabilities. It has also developed two programs -Youth Skills Zone and Inner City Drop-In -to help chronically homeless and street-involved youth develop employable skills and establish critical links to supportive services. The ultimate goal of these programs is to encourage youth to disengage from life on the streets, stabilize their lives, and ultimately, break the cycle of homelessness.

Homeless and street-involved youth have complex needs. They are exposed to elevated levels of risk because they live on the streets and engage in high-risk behaviours in order to survive. They are stigmatized by society, have difficulty accessing services, and often do not trust professionals easily. Many cannot count on any family support. Other aspects to consider are that LGBT youth are disproportionately represented among homeless and street-involved youth, due to family and community rejection (Sherbourne Health Centre estimates about 40% of homeless youth in Toronto are LGBT). The proportion of street-involved youth who have suffered emotional, physical and/ or sexual abuse is estimated to be about 90% (YOUTHLINK). At any given time, 20%-30% of YOUTHLINK's clients are visible minorities.

YOUTHLINK's cultural competence in serving the unique needs of this population, and its ability to address the social determinants of their circumstances, are evident in the following features of their programs:

Lack of Judgment: As many homeless and street-involved youth have negative experiences with people who they feel judge them, front-line workers at YOUTHLINK strive to create a continuous, trusting relationship with the youth by accepting them for who they are and not passing judgment about their lifestyle. YOUTHLINK employs a "harm reduction" approach. This means delivering accurate information and unbiased support to street-involved youth who engage in drug use and other high-risk behaviours. This allows the youth to make and carry out informed decisions.

Emotional Safety: YOUTHLINK understands that some homeless and street-involved youth are involved with the law and require anonymity. Accordingly, at YOUTHLINK the youth do not have to give their names or fill out detailed forms in order to use services.

Easy Access: Homeless/street-involved youth need services that are within walking distance. YOUTHLINK has created a hub of comprehensive services – a one-stop shop - for homeless and street-involved youth in collaboration with twenty youth-serving agencies around the city.

Comprehensive Supports: The basket of services provided by YOUTHLINK is sensitive to, and appropriate for, the different circumstances of homeless and street-involved youth. Some services meet the youths' immediate basic needs such as free meals, showers, and laundry facilities. Other services aim to stabilize their longer-term future, such as providing help to deal with health and social problems, assistance in securing and retaining housing, legal assistance, support in returning to school, and assistance in finding employment and employment training.

Use of Peer Educators: YOUTHLINK's Peer Education Program hires former homeless and street-involved youth to work in the Drop- In/Resource Centre, provide outreach services, and act as ambassadors that advocate on behalf of their peers.

The Value of This Work
"We strive to deliver programs that are meaningful and useful to one of Toronto's most vulnerable populations. Part of the payoff is that we have become very credible amongst the youth population and consequently youth seek us out. Furthermore, other agencies are eager to partner with us, thus supporting a collaborative response that is necessary to end homelessness. "

Contact Person
Marie Muli
Director, Youth Skills Zone and Inner City

7 Vanauley Street
Toronto, ON M5T 2V9
(416) 703-3361 x36

Section G
Additional Resources

In This Section:

Glossary of Diversity Terms

Anti-Oppression Framework
Oppression is a pattern or system of inequality, which gives power and privileges to members of one group of people at the expense of another. An anti-oppression framework recognizes the connections and relationships between different forms of oppression and why it is so important to work together to put an end to all oppression.

(Source: adapted from GLSEN Jump-Start #6, 2004)

A male or female person who is attracted to both men and women.

(Source: Children's Aid Society of Toronto. Creating Positive Space: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual Resource Manual for Residential Care Providers)

Cultural Competency
Cultural competency refers to the ability of organizations and systems to function and perform effectively in cross-cultural situations.

(Source: Cross 1989; Kunisawa 1988; Sue et al., 1992)

Culture refers to the collective experience, beliefs, values, knowledge, economy, and ways of life of a group of individuals who share certain historical and/or present experience.

(Source: Lopes and Thomas, 2006. Dancing on Live Embers)

Equal Access
Recognizing that "one size does not fit all" in diverse urban/rural communities, equal access to health programs and services for all individuals requires the removal of barriers associated with literacy levels, language, culture, geography, social factors, education, economic circumstance and mental and physical ability.

(Source: Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 1997. Mandatory Health Programs and Services Guidelines).

The rights of the individual to an equitable share of the goods and services in society. However, equality of treatment will not guarantee equal results. Creating equal results sometimes requires treating people differently from each other. Focusing on the results instead of the treatment is the concept of equity.

(Source: City of Toronto Task Force on Access and Equity, 2000. Diversity Our Strength, Access and Equity Our Goal: Final Report.)

Prejudice is an attitude; discrimination is the effect or result. It's any action that limits the opportunities of a person or group based on their age, disability, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, skin colour, or socio-economic status.

(Source: Canadian Centre for Diversity Website)

The word 'diversity' suggests the range of human characteristics found in any workplace or community. The diversity of identifying characteristics includes race, culture, language, faith/religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, income, family status, literacy level, educational background, housing, immigration status, HIV status, and mental health status, among many other characteristics. Groups and individuals are both visibly and invisibly different from each other. These differences shape and have a significant impact on our experiences and expectations in any given situation.

(Source: adapted from Lopes and Thomas, 2006. Dancing on Live Embers; and Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, 2004. Inclusive Community Organizations: A Tool Kit)

A male person who is primarily attracted physically, sexually and/or emotionally to other males.

(Source: Creating Positive Space: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual Resource Manual for Residential Care Providers. Children's Aid Society of Toronto)

Hate Crime
A hate crime is an act of violence, threats of harm, intimidation or damage to property intended to harm and frighten someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

(Source: Canadian Centre for Diversity Website)

The principle of inclusivity recognizes that ideas and practices based on the norms of the dominant culture or society can result in experiences of exclusion and discrimination for a number of people in society. Inclusivity within an organizational context is comprised of a strategic process to eliminate barriers and implement change, based on the acceptance that many people do not have access to services, jobs and positions of leadership due to societal and systemic factors rather than personal deficiencies. This process includes the active and meaningful involvement of people who are reflective of the diverse groups within a community.

(Source: Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition, 2004. Inclusive Community Organizations: A Tool Kit)

A female person who is primarily attracted physically, sexually and/or emotionally to other females.

(Source: Children's Aid Society of Toronto. Creating Positive Space: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual Resource Manual for Residential Care Providers)

Stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Two-Spirited, Queer, Questioning, Intersex.

(Source: Children's Aid Society of Toronto. Creating Positive Space: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual Resource Manual for Residential Care Providers)

Groups that have a history of oppression or exploitation are pushed further and further from the centers of power that control the shape and destiny of the society. These are the margins of society, and this is the process of marginalization.

(Source: Anne Bishop, 1994. Becoming an Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression)

Oppression exists when one social group exploits (knowingly or unconsciously) another social group for its own benefit. It results in privilege for the dominant group and disenfranchisement for the subordinated group. After a while, oppression does not require the conscious thought or effort of individual members of the dominant group, and unequal treatment becomes institutionalized, systemic, and looks "normal."

(Source: Lopes and Thomas, 2006. Dancing on Live Embers)

Prejudice means having a negative opinion or attitude toward a person or group of people because they're different from you.

(Source: Canadian Centre for Diversity Website)

Sexual Orientation
The direction of one's attraction i.e. one's tendency to be primarily attracted to the same sex (lesbian or gay), other sex (heterosexual), both sexes (bisexual), neither sex (nonsexual) or any sex (pansexual). Some people experience it as an unchanging part of their essential nature; others experience it with more fluidity.

(Source: Children's Aid Society of Toronto. Creating Positive Space: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual Resource Manual for Residential Care Providers)

Social Determinants of Health
Social determinants of health are the social and economic conditions that influence the health of individuals and populations. Some of the best predictors of whether people stay healthy or become ill include income, housing, education, employment and job security, stress, social supports – what we now consider the social determinants of health.

(Source: Raphael, D., 2003. Addressing the Social Determinants of Health in Canada: Bridging the Gap between Research Findings and Public Policy.)

A more generic term (than transsexual) for people who transgress social norms around gender. May want to present some of the time as the other sex; or may feel like a combination of male and female or neither male nor female; may want to alter their body, but generally does not want to change their body so much as to be the other sex.

(Source: Children's Aid Society of Toronto. Creating Positive Space: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual Resource Manual for Residential Care Providers)

A person who feels internally that their gender does not match the sexual organs that they have. A transsexual person may be at various stages of transition. They usually feel an overwhelming desire to live full-time presenting as a gender that feels comfortable and true. Can be any sexual orientation.

(Source: Children's Aid Society of Toronto. Creating Positive Space: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual Resource Manual for Residential Care Providers)

Individuals of First Nations or indigenous descent who were traditionally considered to occupy a third-gendered position with the social characteristics of both men and women, and the visions of both sexes, based on their innate nature. They were often given spiritual sanction and associated powers viewed as a sacred gift and treated with reverence. They often cross-dressed and were attracted to members of their own biological sex.

(Source: Children's Aid Society of Toronto. Creating Positive Space: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual Resource Manual for Residential Care Providers)

Visible Minority
According to the Employment Equity Act, visible minority is defined as "persons other than the Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race and non-white in colour."

(Source: Canadian Centre for Diversity Website)

Bilingual Diversity Websites

Diversity in the Workplace

Site includes on-line seminars, resources and a newsletter.

Federal Department of Canadian Heritage

Site includes a compendium of resources, links and information on multi-cultures for service providers, parents and youth.

Books and Articles

Arnold, Burke, James, Martin, Thomas. Educating for a Change, 1991. Between the Lines.

Biocchi, R. and Radcliff, S. A Shared Experience Bridging Cultures. Resources for Cross-Cultural Training, 1983. London Cross Cultural Learning Centre and Canadian Mental Health Association.

Carrie, R. and Peter, D. Building a Future Together: Issues and Outcomes for Transitioned-Aged Youth. Available from Centre of Excellence of Child Welfare's website

Dermann-Sparks, L. and the ABC Task Force. Anti-Bias Curriculum -Tools for Empowering Young Children, 1989. Available from National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

Dudding, P. et al., Promoting Resilience in Child Welfare. Available at University of Toronto Bookstore or order at

Hanning, D. and Munoz , X and Old, D. One Child Two Cultures, 1987. Manitoba Department of Employment and Service Security, Immigration and Settlement Branch.

Lopes, T., and Thomas, B., Dancing on Live Embers – Challenging Racism in Organizations, 2006. Between the Lines.

Lynch, E. and Hanson, M. Developing Cross-Cultural Competence. A Guide for Working with Young Children and Their Families, 1992. Paul H. Brooks Publishing Company.

Matiella, A., Positively Different -Creating a Bias Free Environment for Young Children, 1991. ETR Associates.

Morley, J. Sayt K'üülm Goot – Of One Heart: Preventing Aboriginal Youth Suicide Through Youth and Community Engagement, downloaded from

O'Brien, T., Travers, Bell, L. No Safe Bed - Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Youth in Residence, 1993. Central Toronto Youth Services.

Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, We Are Your Sons and Daughters -The Child's Advocate's Report on the Quality of Care in 3 Children's Aid Societies, 2007. Available from:

Schniedewind and Davidson. Open Minds to Equality -A Sourcebook of Learning Activities to Promote Race, Sex, Class, and Age Equity, 1983. Prentice Hall.

Bilingual Community Networks For Equity-Seeking Groups


Alter Heros
A coalition for LGBT youth, parents and service providers.

Pink Triangle
Resources and information for GLBTQ youth in the Ottawa area.


Canadian Association of the Deaf
Programs, services resources for children, youth and adults with hearing loss.

The Canadian Hearing Society
Programs, services and resources for children, youth and adults with hearing loss.

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Programs, services and resources for children, youth and adults who are visually impaired.

Community Living Ontario
A provincial network that provides resources and services for children and youth with physical disabilities.

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
Information, list of treatment centre and support groups dealing with alcohol and substance abuse including fetal alcohol syndrome.

Offord Centre for Child Studies


Autism Ontario

Children's Mental Health Ontario

Ethnocultural Groups

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
A comprehensive listing of resources, networks, information and policies for Aboriginal people.

Children's Bills of Rights

Child Rights Information Network
Site includes links, supports and information targeted towards children rights.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
This is a direct link to the United Nations child-friendly convention on the Rights of the Child, explaining the rights of children and youth through a colourful poster.

Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
Provides resources for service providers, parents, children and youth related to access, mental issues as well as residential services

A Sample Children's Bill of Rights

  1. You have the right to professional courteous treatment.
  2. You have the right be treated fairly and with respect.
  3. You have the right to know, understand and agree to any actions regarding your case and to know the consequences of those actions.
  4. You have the right to be explained your rights and responsibilities.
  5. You have the right to be respected for your choices.
  6. You have the right to expect a living environment that respects your culture.
  7. You have the right to expect services that are culturally appropriate to you.
  8. You have the right to be listened to.
  9. You have the right to not be interrupted.
  10. You have the right to expect a non-judgmental attitude.
  11. You have the right to expect to trust those you live with.
  12. You have right to be replied to properly and respectfully.

Sample Board Policy Statements On Diversity

  1. The Board of Directors of [agency], in recognition of the growing diversity in the community, seeks to create and maintain a culturally responsive family support environment. It is the responsibility of the agency to not only make its services accessible to all, but to affirm by policy and action its commitment to families of all cultures.

    It is the policy of the agency to develop and maintain: links with key referral sources in our communities; standards for providing services to ethnically and culturally diverse families; a culturally competent work force that is reflective of the cultural diversity of the service population; registration procedures; and programming which recognize, enhance and strengthen cultural identity, dignity, and esteem.
    Adapted from: People of Color Leadership Institute
  2. The Board and each Director shall demonstrate the commitment of (name of organization) to create an inclusive environment receptive to diverse experiences, perspectives and interests, inclusive of all, where all individuals are treated fairly with decency and respect, free of discrimination or harassment. The Board, through the Governance and Human Resources Committee, shall provide leadership by considering diversity when recruiting new Directors, and shall continue to guide and support efforts by management to further integrate diversity and inclusion into all facets of (name of organization)'s operations.

    Adopted by the Board of Directors on __________________________________________________

Holy Days and Holidays

Interfaith Calendar
Various calendar formats that list the primary sacred dates for all world religions, form now to 2017.

BBC –British Broadcasting
Provides a comprehensive calendar for a broad range of cultural and ethnic-specific populations. Includes an explanation and suggested activities.

Other Resources:
Exodus Images
Posters and other print images representing diversity.

Achieving Cultural CompetencePrintable PDF