Cultural Brokers

August 14, 2009 10:21:23 PM PDT
The Department of Children and Family Services is looking to expand a program to help keep vulnerable families from becoming part of the child welfare system.Andre Parker and his teenage daughter Andrea are mulling over what school she should attend. Their positive relationship hasn't always been so amicable. Parker said, "We were having a bit of a dynamic and things were kind of, there was a bit of a downward spiral for lack of a better term."

Andre ended up at a roundtable meeting he requested with Child Protective Services. Interpreting the legal terms was the biggest challenge.

"I'm speaking a certain language because I come from a different perspective or certain position culturally. The agency comes from a certain perspective because this is what they do. The cultural broker educates me about what's going on with the process," said Parker.

Oscar Haynes is Andre's cultural broker. He's a retired teacher who volunteers his time reaching out to at risk families.

Oscar Haynes said, "We started exchanging phone calls. I'd show up to all his t-d-m-'s and also anytime he was called before courts, I'd go with him just to be somebody cause anytime you go into that room whether you have your kids taken, it's intimidation."

The concept of cultural brokers came about three years ago by a professor at Fresno State. Margaret Jackson saw the confused looks coming from parents while trying to navigate through the child welfare process.

The brokers are same ethnicity as the clients and also help social workers understand cultural differences that are often misunderstood.

Child Protective Services managers are hoping to expand the program, to include more Latino and Asian brokers. The brokers typically have a background in child development or a related field.

"Folks like Oscar and the other cultural brokers. They are critical to our work. Critical to our carrying out our mission. They have the heart of the mission. They have so much connection, credibility. They care so much about the children that live in and around their neighborhoods," said Andrea Sobrado.

Nowadays, Oscar and Andre carry on like old friends and Andre and Andrea do too.

Spending quality time building a healthy, respectful relationship has improved the life of both father and daughter.

Oscar's moving on to help the next family, but he'll always be just a phone call away.

Child Welfare Child Welfare Home Page
559-253-7800

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