Everyday Dramas, Possible Plots: On Assessing Cultural Competency in a Child Welfare Agency

  • Lynn M. Nybell Eastern Michigan University School of Social Work
  • Sylvia Sims Gray Eastern Michigan University School of Social Work


For more than two decades, the authors have worked separately and together as teachers, trainers, and researchers concerned with issues of culture, race, and power in social welfare policy and social work practice. Throughout the 1990s, they collaborated as an interracial (African American and White) team, consulting with agencies in developing cultural competency. Their time at Metro Children's Service in metropolitan Detroit was the most memorable. The following narrative describes the authors' return to Metro after a fifteen-year absence. It is intended as a self-reflective story about their work as consultants in cultural competency. It is also an effort to contribute to an open discussion among change agents about the processes that they undertake, and the risks, successes and failures involved. The authors make a case for taking stories seriously, theoretically and politically, in a renewed struggle to develop cultural competency in social work practice.

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