Cultural Competence Landing Pad

Diversity impacts every aspect of our work with children and families. Yet to many, it is as invisible as water to a fish. To be culturally competent in the early intervention field, we must work to discover and be responsive to diversity in ourselves - our values, our words and our practices - and in others.

This landing pad highlights research, policies, and position statements (Why Do It?), print materials (Read All About It), videos and DVDs (See for Yourself), and Web resources (Find It Online) to support the practices that are respectful of and responsive to culture and diversity. Featured resources are high-quality, readily available, and no-cost or low-cost. A special section (Virginia Guidance) features Web sites, organizations, and other state-specific resources.

Why Do It?

The Changing Face of the United States: The Influence of Culture on Early Child Development.

In 2007, ZERO TO THREE conducted a literature search focusing on the influence of culture on child development from birth to age 3 years. This paper by Beth Maschinot summarizes the key findings highlighted in that review and offers resources for practitioners as they strive to address the needs of a growing and diverse population of very young children. Matrices provide summaries of studies referenced and key findings. A thoughtful definition of culture and related understandings is also included.

Disparities in Early Learning and Development.

Research has noted that children from low-income families, black and Hispanic children, children from Spanish-speaking homes, and children of mothers with low levels of education on average perform worse on indicators of academic achievement than their more advantaged peers. This report highlights the fact that disparities in child outcomes between poor, at-risk, and more advantaged children are evident in cognitive, social, behavioral, and health outcomes as early as 9 months and grow larger by 24 months of age. Strategies for addressing these disparities are included.

Responsiveness to ALL Children, Families, and Professionals: Integrating Cultural and Linguistic Diversity into Policy and Practice.

For optimal development and learning of all children, individuals who work with children must respect, value, and support the culture, values, and languages of each home and promote the active participation of all families. This position statement from the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) highlights culturally and linguistically responsive practices for personnel and programs that serve infants, toddlers, young children and families. A brief synthesis of these practices is provided in the executive summary.

Position Statement

Executive Summary

See For Yourself

Culturally Responsive and Family-Focused Training (CRAFT)

This video/DVD explores the subtleties of working with culturally diverse children and families by examining stereotypes, family values, relationship building, communication styles, and language acquisition. Families from various backgrounds and the early intervention professionals who work with them share their experiences and feelings about cultural differences, living with a child with disabilities, and negotiating the special education system. The accompanying booklet – with topical headers, scenarios, key points, and handouts – offers questions and activities to facilitate group discussions. This resource is available from Child Development Media for $75.00.

That’s a Family!

Each segment of this video/DVD is narrated by children who share unique features of their family’s configuration and culture (e.g., multi-racial, gay/lesbian parents, foster parents, divorced parents, etc.). Watching and discussing segments can be a very effective way to build responsive approaches to diversely-configured families. This resource is available from Groundspark for $29.95.

Find It Online

Assistive Technology and Diversity Issues.

Professionals need to take into account and understand how a family’s cultural, ethnic and/or socioeconomic background may impact decisions about the use of assistive technology with young children. This annotated bibliography highlights findings that can be used to support more culturally responsive decision.

Cultural Influences on Early Language and Literacy Teaching Practices.

Children learn to communicate in the context of their home culture. Beginning at birth, children use their home language and culturally accepted communication styles to connect with others in a meaningful way, forming the secure relationships that are so intrinsic to healthy development. For the early interventionist or childhood teacher, it is important to establish supportive, respectful relationships as well—with both families and children. These connections help professionals to learn more about the strengths, needs, and culture of every child they serve. This classic article by Rebecca Parlakian and Sylvia Y. Sánchez offers strategies for creating richly diverse and welcoming environments, remaining aware of their own cultural beliefs (and biases), and identifying a variety of teaching strategies to share the magic of print and language.

Building Culturally & Linguistically Competent Services to Support Young Children, Their Families and School Readiness.

The purpose of this tool kit is to provide guidance, tools, and resources that will assist communities in building culturally and linguistically competent services, supports, programs, and practices related to young children, their families. Areas of emphasis include diversity and the cultural context of the family and community, the impact of culture on child development, planning and implementing culturally and linguistically competent services, and strategies for preparing culturally competent personnel.

Cultural Competency: What It Is and Why It Matters.

Using vignettes and illustrations, this thoughtful resource highlights what cultural competence is as well as what it is not. The document is organized around five questions: What is cultural competency? Why is cultural competency important? What is culture? What does cultural competency look like? and What is a culturally competent organization?

National Center for Children in Poverty.

The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) is the nation’s leading public policy center dedicated to promoting the economic security, health, and well-being of America’s low-income families and children. NCCP uses research to inform policy and practice with the goal of ensuring positive outcomes for the next generation.

National Center for Cultural Competence.

The NCCC provides national leadership and contributes to the body of knowledge on cultural and linguistic competency within systems and organizations. Emphasis is placed on translating evidence into policy and practice for programs and personnel concerned with health and mental health care delivery, administration, education and advocacy. The NCCC has particular expertise in developing instruments and conducting organizational self-assessment processes to advance cultural and linguistic competency.

Promoting Cultural Diversity and Cultural Competency: Self-Assessment Checklist for Personnel Providing Services and Supports to Children in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Settings.

This self assessment tool from the NCCC can be used by individuals, families, and teams to consider the ways in which a program is (or is not) respectful of and responsive to cultural diversity.

Reaching All Children: Understanding Early Care and Education Participation Among Immigrant Families.

Research shows that high-quality early education programs can particularly benefit low-income children and those most at risk of school failure by supporting their healthy development across a range of measures. This paper highlights both the benefits to be derived from early intervention by child in immigrant families as well as the challenges of identifying and engaging those families.

Full document


Read About It

Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves

Louise Derman Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards have created practical guidance to confronting and eliminating barriers of prejudice, misinformation, and bias about specific aspects of personal and social identity. The result is a rich and nuanced articulation of what each professional needs to know about culturally responsive practice. Individual chapters focus on culture and language, racial identity, family structures, gender identity, economic class, different abilities, holidays, and more. This book is available from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for $30.00.

Developing Cross-Cultural Competence: A Guide for Working with Children and Their Families.

This monograph has a variety of features, including guidelines for conducting a culturally sensitive home visit. Authors Eleanor Lynch and Marci Hanson provide a primer on cultural competence and information about characteristics that may be associated with different cultural and ethnic groups. This book is available from Paul Brookes for $46.95.

Virginia Guidance

CLAS Act Virginia (Culturally & Linguistically Appropriate Health Care Services).

This Virginia Department of Health Web site offers resource guides and information on culturally appropriate health care and multicultural practices. Information to support linguistically appropriate health care is also provided.

Core Competencies.

This document from the Infant & Toddler Connection of Virginia highlights the ways in which cultural competence is woven throughout the Virginia core competencies for early interventionists.

Office of Cultural and Linguistic Competence (VA DBHDS).

This office leads efforts to provide improved services to multicultural consumers and works toward eliminating the disparities within the state’s mental health, intellectual disability and substance-use disorder system. Learn more about the DBHDS CLC vision, policies, regulations, position statement and steering committee by visiting.

Developmental Checklist Brochures & Posters.

The Infant & Toddler Connection of Virginia has created public awareness materials, including checklist brochures (available in English, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, and Vietnamese) and posters (available in English and Spanish).

Family Centered Practices.

This online module is part of the Principles & Practices of Early Intervention series. Module content aligns with the Infant and Toddler Connection of Virginia Core Competencies, and completion of this and three other modules is required in order for individuals to enroll as practitioners in Virginia’s early intervention system. Information in Chapter 6 is especially relevant to culturally responsive practices.

To access the module, go to and register. This will establish your username and password so you can access the modules.

Virginia Early Intervention Professional Development Center

Virginia Commonwealth University
Partnership for People with Disabilities

Integrated Training Collaborative
Infant and Toddler Connection of Virginia
Partnership for People with Disabilities

This professional development activity is supported by the Integrated Training Collaborative (ITC), with funding support from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Copyright © 2011, Updated 2013.