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Culturally Responsive

A core value in a system of care is to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS) for children, youth and families. A culturally responsive system values diversity, understands differences and develops services and supports to meet the unique needs of each community.

Cultural competence is the ability to successfully engage with children, youth and families who come from a culture or cultures other than our own. It entails developing certain personal and interpersonal awareness and sensitivities, understanding certain bodies of cultural knowledge, and mastering a set of skills that, taken together, underlie effective cross-cultural and culturally responsive services and supports.

Culture is often defined and perceived as the celebration of important people, religions, traditions, and holidays, as well as an appreciation of the customs of different groups. It is also more than that. Culture is as much, or as little, as the everyday experiences, people, events, smells, sounds, and habits of behavior that characterize individuals’ lives.

Cultural Responsiveness

Cultural responsiveness can be summarized and described as a continuum.


Understanding culture is important so that we understand how we interact with individuals from cultures that are different from ours. This understanding helps us see our children, youth and families more clearly, and shape policies and practice in ways that will help them succeed. To be culturally responsive, it is important that expectations reflect the values and cultures of children, youth and families in our children’s mental health system.

Advancing Health Equity (PDF)

The National CLAS Standards

The National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care (The National CLAS Standards) aim to improve health care quality and advance health equity by establishing a framework for organizations to serve the nation's increasingly diverse communities.

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