CULTURAL FACTORS IN CLIENT-PROFESSIONAL INTERACTION

Seventeen of the responses indicated that there was no discussion during interviews that was related to the family’s Indian background and culture. Seven reported there was some discussion, including asking the mother’s tribe and how long she had been in Los Angeles. One reported discussing how her child-care practices were related to how she was raised. Two reported asking about life on the reservation, and one reported discussing Indian activities in Los Angeles. Of the seventeen who stated that nothing was discussed, the following reasons were given: thirteen reported that it did not seem relevant to the purpose of the contact, two did not consider it important, two reported not wanting to overstress ethnic factors, one was unaware the caretaker was Indian, and one did not know what to ask. Three gave additional reasons, which included: “One parent is white … in reporting child’s disability the ethnicity was not important.” “Mother was very guarded and a trusting relationship has not yet been established.” “I try to meet all ethnic groups on an equal basis.”

“Did the mother say anything in your contacts that you think mar hare been related to her Indian cultural background and beliefs?” There were thirteen “no” response to this question, which represented half of the sample. Five replied that the clients were passive or stoic, four commented about family interactions: leniency in disciplining the child, using beating as discipline, lack of concern about play skills, and lack of involvement of the father. Two referred to mothers’ comments about moving from the reservation, and one mentioned the art work in the home.

“Did the mother say or do anything that made you feel she was not comfortable in any of your contacts?” Eleven respondents answered “no” to this question. Eight described the mothers as reserved, nervous, withdrawn, ashamed, shy, depressed, and fidgety. Only two professionals described the mothers as comfortable.

“Do you think that knowing the family was Indian caused you to do or say anything different than you ordinarily would?” There were eighteen “no” responses to this question, which has several possible interpretations. Professionals may not behave differently because they do not feel culture or ethnicity require different behaviors; they may want to behave differently but feel that to do so may be misinterpreted as discriminatory or racist; they may behave differently without being aware of it; or they may behave differently but not want to admit it. Three professionals reported slowing down the pace; three stated they tried to be sensitive to the possibility of distrust of white agencies; one reported an awareness that “WASP standards do not always apply”; and one focused on their “expectations and beliefs within the structure of the relationship.” “Did you feel it necessary to consider any cultural factors in making recommendations or writing up the contact?” There were sixteen “no” responses to this question, and five indicated “yes” without giving any details. The five who gave detailed answers reported consideration of being raised on a reservation and attending a boarding school, recommendation of contacting other Indian mothers for sup-port, and “the way their culture deals with affect.” One professional commented: “With her lack of assertiveness I was not sure if the services offered were what she wanted” and, in a similar vein, another stated, “I felt the mother was not aggressive enough in seeking help for herself and her child.” “Were there any areas in which you felt you needed more knowledge of American Indian people and cultural awareness in order to have been more effective?” There were four “no” responses to this question. The other responses implied that even though cultural factors were not discussed, there was a perceived need on the part of the professionals to have more knowledge to better understand these families. Four professionals indicated a need or more knowledge about child-rearing practices, three about family dynamics.

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