A child from a culturally and linguistically diverse background will require planning across the same domains as all young people, but special consideration may be required for some aspects of this planning.
Don’t presume that all young people from all culturally different backgrounds will share the same issues or needs. Each young person will require individual plans and may require more support in some areas than others.
Be mindful of the following issues and ask about them. Remember that being culturally competent means not making any assumptions about a person, their experience or their needs.
Relationships and support networks
When the Australian Child Wellbeing Project (2014) asked young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds what the most important factor in their life was, ‘family’ was most commonly reported as a key contributor to having a ‘good life’, even where intergenerational conflict was present.
When discussing relationships and support networks with young people, always keep in mind that kinship is a key contributor to their support and resilience, and in some cases, their survival.
Maintaining or building connections with family and their cultural community is a priority for young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
If a young person has lost connection with their family and cultural community, the transition planning stage is an opportunity to revisit this and look at how relationships can be rebuilt or strengthened.
Sensitive communication with key adults in the family and network can enhance families' understanding of the issues directly affecting their young person. It can help them to play a supportive role as the young person approaches adulthood and increasing independence. These adults in the family and cultural community may be potential safety and support network members. Applying strategies from the Family Finding model, developing a timeline with the young person to identify past relationships that have been important to the young person, and networking through community based organisations, are methods that can assist with the development of safety and support networks.
A place to live/housing
Studies into the experience of young people fromculturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in the care of Child Safety identified constraints in finding a culturally suitable carer for a young person. For example, placing an adolescent girl with a male carer may be inappropriate in some cultural contexts. Mainstream foster carers may lack the cultural awareness and competence to meet a young person’s cultural needs.
We may need to be creative in sourcing kin, or a community-based carer may be required to ensure an appropriate family based care arrangement that can provide a young person with a sense of permanent connection through their transition to adulthood.
Homelessness is common in young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, with refugee youth being ‘six to ten times more likely to be at risk of homelessness than Australian-born young people.’ (The Centre for Multicultural Youth, 2010).
Young people residing with their families may also experience difficulty in attaining safe housing due to overcrowding, discrimination in the property market, financial hardship and family separation or breakdown.
Practical planning about housing needs should begin early if a young person is likely to need to live independently. Young people need to be equipped with information about how to access housing services for later use.
The Sortli app and Next Steps After Care can be accessed after leaving care.
Health and wellbeing
Social, biological, religious and psychological factors contribute to cultural explanations of mental health. This is particularly true for people when interpreting and responding to suicidal thoughts or behaviour.
For many cultures, the western approach to mental health and treatment may be unsuitable, and often does not resonate with individual's experiences. This can create a barrier to the young person or their family seeking assistance from mental health services.
If a young person transitioning to adulthood experiences mental health concerns, they may experience barriers to accessing general and specialist health services through:
- a lack of awareness of services available to them
- difficulties locating or accessing services
- difficulties gaining permission to attend services from parents, carers or older siblings
- actual or perceived language barriers
- a lack of trust in providing ‘officials’ with access to their personal information and body
- embarrassment at showing their body, which may be scarred or injured
There can also be barriers to young people from diverse cultural backgrounds accessing health care.
People from refugee backgrounds may require specific support to access general practitioner clinics, refugee health programs and other primary care services. Include long-term health needs in the transition to adulthood plan so the young person can develop practical skills and awareness for seeking and accepting help with them.
Education and training
In Australia, the system of age-appropriate placement in schools, TAFE and university can further compound challenges for refugee and migrant students. Being placed in grades that reflect their age rather than level of comprehension can be confusing for children and young people.
Students from refugee backgrounds in educational institutions, especially those with disrupted or no previous schooling, require additional support to develop the English language and learning skills they need to succeed.
Ensure that older adolescents’ schooling and education and training needs are prioritised, and have discussions with the young person about the importance of education and training.
In some cultures, the young person’s access to education can be restricted due to their potential to earn additional income and relieve financial burdens on the family. The young person may feel some sense of responsibility to provide for their family over and above their individual training and education ambitions if this is an expectation in their family or culture. They may need help to negotiate these issues with their family.
Young people face many challenges when looking for work, such as a lack of experience, mistrust or stereotyping. Young job seekers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds may confront additional barriers, such as a limited knowledge of workplace culture and expectations and racial discrimination in interviews.
When accessing job support services support the young person in identifying any additional knowledge and skills they may require to understand and cope with workplace expectations.
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