What does a social service provider need to know about parenting in minority and Aboriginal families?

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No social worker or social services provider can be effective in minority or aboriginal communities without a strong background in the languages and cultures of those societies.  The mere fact that this discussion is focusing on social welfare issues in largely indigent communities illuminates the challenges social workers face when assigned to low-income minority or aboriginal communities.  Often overflowing with cases of alcohol and drug abuse, spousal and child abuse, and broken families, social service providers have to be trained and educated in the characteristics and idiosyncracies of the ethnic groups with which they are assigned to work.  Drug and alcohol dependency are prevalent throughout Native American communities, and are overrepresented among other minorities as well.  Social service providers generally know this at the outset, but that knowledge doesn't always make serving the community in question any easier.  

One of the main things a social service provider working with destitute minorities or aboriginals must know, then, is the family dynamics within each individual family assinged to the social worker.  Whether one or both parents is an alcoholic or drug addict, whether the father is currently or has recently served time in a correctional facility and the reason for that incarceration, whether the parents are living together, whether there are other potential caregivers within the extended family, for example, grandparents who can take care of the children, and whether the children are receiving the minimal amount of financial assistance and access to Head Start programs to which they may be entitled, are all questions the social service provider must be ready to answer, in addition to being prepared to provide an opinion in a juvenile court with regard to the child's welfare -- in other words, does the social service provider or guardian ad litem recommend that the children be separated from the parent(s) and placed in foster care, or be put up for adoption, or are children better off remaining with their parents.  These are all important issues, and the knowledge, sensitivity and competency of the social service provider can all play to the benefit  or to the detriment of the children involved.

The culture of the community in which a social service provider is immersed can be fraught with perils both seen and unseen.  The substance abuse and domestic violence prevalent throughout many of these communities can result in children permanently physically and emotionally harmed, which will very likely result in those children growing up dysfunctional and following the patterns as those who raised them.  Breaking that cycle of poverty and violence has been serious challenge for many decades.  At least with respect to indigenous communities, it doesn't seem to be getting better any time soon.  Social service providers who enter that world usually know that; their commitment to help even one child or family, though, keeps them engaged.

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