Cultural Sensitivity Around the Latino Culture

What are the unique needs that one might find in the LatinX community as a provider? How do you engage with parents when their child needs help?

These are just a couple of questions that were addressed at CONNECT Summit County’s “Cultural Sensitivity Around the Latino Culture” Provider Roundtable last week.

Eric Esquivel, Latino Community Relations at the Park City School District, moderated a panel with Roxanna Cordova, an LCSW with Jewish Family Services alongside Jenny Wojcikowski, an LCSW with Park City School District.

These quarterly events provide a great opportunity for providers to have an open conversation with peers about important topics in our community. Our next Provider Roundtables will be Thursday, June 25, 8:30 -10 a.m.; Thursday, October 15, 2020, 8:30-10 a.m.; Tuesday, December 8, 2020.

The following is an overview of what was discussed

What are the unique needs that one might find in the LatinX community as a provider?

Jenny: There are a lot of immigrants here with trauma backgrounds. They are undocumented and escaping gang violence, extortion, poverty. There are single moms leaving abusive husbands behind and taking the children alone. 

More and more families are merging and living in the same space for affordability which presents its own set of challenges.

What are some strategies for those who have not received mental health resources in the past?

Roxanna: There is a lot of education needed. At my in-take appointments, I ask questions, get their history and build rapport by asking questions. I have to have a lot of patience. They might not be at a point they feel they can trust you. They are very aware of legal status and wonder, “Am I oversharing too much?” The stigma of mental illness plays a role. The women, upon receiving therapy, become empowered and when they start applying the new skillsets, the husbands are calling them out on it.

Jenny: In schools, we don’t see as much resistance to therapy so maybe stigma is being reduced.

How do you engage with parents when their child needs help?

Jenny. Parents send them to her with the attitude, “fix my kid.” More education needed on their role as parents, boundaries in the home. If you want this to be successful for your child, YOU need to be in therapy and carry this forward. There is a lot of hand-holding with younger children. Most of the families they deal with in the school district is mostly comprised of recent arrivals (under 10 years in the U.S.)

Erik. There is a lot of newness to our community. Here, they’re afraid and keep to themselves.  Try to make eye contact and smile. Simple acts like this can make a huge difference.

What would be some culturally sensitive material you could share with clients to continue practicing at home?

Roxanna: When I give people materials, they make excuses about why they didn’t follow-through on their assignments so I rarely use handouts. I, instead, implement discussion. Many of them have a lack of literacy skills, even in their native tongue. 

Erik. I handle registration for school and I know immediately when someone needs help due to inability to read. A lot of people who have moved here come by friends/family who are already here. There are slightly different influences between Summit County and Wasatch; they’re from different parts of Mexico. Kids are walking miles to school, many are volunteer teachers. If you want to continue your education past elementary school, you need to go to the next town over.

What other areas are they from?

The majority of Summit County immigrants are from Mexico but we are seeing a lot more from Venezuela, Columbia. With those populations, it’s completely different. They were the elite in their society. Educated, engineers. Some are coming from extortion so they flee and are shifting to blue-collar workers. 

The LatinX community relies a lot on experts without questioning authority. How do you handle this?

We try to really empower them to speak up. Park City has outreach coordinators who speak Spanish. So many Anglo parents will ask for something and get it. Spanish-speakers who don’t speak any English can’t advocate for themselves and their kids because they don’t want to rock the boat. They see us as professionals so they don’t question it. 

Roxanna. I tell my clients I’m not going to tell you what to do but at the end of the day, you need to live with your consequences and choices. 

There is a balance. We have Outreach Coordinators in all schools in Park City School Districts. Kamas and Coalville do not have any Outreach Coordinators. These coordinators don’t just help the LatinX communities but also those who are bi-lingual and underserved.  The Christian Center and People’s Health Clinic are our biggest partners.

What can service providers do when there’s not a good fit between the client and the patient?

Roxanna: I try to figure out how to repair the relationship and find out if they’re even ready for counseling. If it is a clinician issue, I will refer them out and give them resources. Often there aren’t affordable services or people who speak Spanish.

Jen: It’s different in the school district. If it’s not a good fit, it is a struggle to find someone who is local and speaks Spanish. It is a struggle to get them to commit to leaving the area i.e. Salt Lake City due to cost and/or transportation.

Roxanna: They don’t understand there needs to be consistency in therapy. 

There are about 5 bilingual therapists in Summit County. 

What are the reasons that prevent families from going to SLC?

Transportation is one of them but really, it’s time. They’re working up to 12 hours/day. It’s a very male-dominated household structure. A lot of time, the men work long hours and when they get home, they’re done. Meanwhile, the wife is working long hours, making sure kids are taken care of and there is school. They are tapped out. Erik: sees women as having the biggest struggle and men having the biggest rejection. “I don’t have a problem.” 

What kind of educational tools can you provide regarding cultural differences in discipline?

Roxanna: During intake, I explain I have a recorder and in matters of discipline, I emphasize that corporal punishment is against the law here. Since you’re in the U.S., you need to live by the laws here. If this continues, by law, I have to report it. I do a lot of educating. 

If we have to report to DCFS, schools are not reporting to any kind of federal agency. Once it is reported, it is outside of our hands. 

Jenny. I have to educate teachers. Because it is part of the culture to spank your child, I explain the rules and the laws and educate the parents before jumping to the next step. DCFS will come in and educate families. Spanking should only be with an open hand, only on the bum. 

Erik. The kids become very aware of the laws here and tell their parents, “I was born here and I have more rights than you. You can’t hit me.” So that adds a layer of fear to the parents and now they can’t discipline the kids. They feel helpless. On the flip side, you have the families who just arrive in the U.S.

 We recently had a Columbian family who didn’t let their 10th grader socialize. The only time she could socialize was at school so she started ditching to be with her friends. This girl had missed so much school and they built a plan to report to the family when she skipped. After one such trespass, she came back to school the next day, bruised. She got in trouble because the school had to report. The other flipside is the kid who won’t report they’re getting abused because they don’t want to expose their parents and are worried about immigration repercussions. They underreport crime because they’re constantly looking over their shoulder. There is a lot of anxiety. 

The mentality is if you take any kind of government assistance, it disqualifies you in your bid to become a U.S. citizen.  The county has seen a reduction in free and reduced meals and Medicaid. People are triggered by fear.

LatinX Culture and what is your favorite place? 

Erik. The recent immigrants often come here for 20 years. They educate their kids and create better opportunities. They send money back to family and plan to return to Mexico. They struggle to know how do they teach their kids to adapt to this culture? A Chilean student hates to be lumped into the Latino community. They are separate and distinct cultures. 

A teacher at a Summit County elementary school asked the students about their favorite places and they shared lots of exotic locations i.e. Hawaii, Seychelles. A young Latino boy said: “Under my bed.” He lives in a house with lots of different families trying to make ends meet and under his bed was the only place he truly felt he could be safe and alone.

Remember how different their lives are from the general community. Support, support. support!


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