Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Lanesskog, Deirdre


With the growing presence of Latino families across the United States, service providers must remain cognizant of this group’s unique sociocultural characteristics. Culturally competent service provision requires child welfare professionals to remain aware of the stressors often faced by this population. Immigration and acculturation issues, language and cultural barriers, poverty, discrimination, fear of deportation, and lack of access to a variety of services are a few of the stressors that are commonly experienced by this group. Linguistically competent practice requires service provision to be in a families’ native language; however, there are many other factors to consider even when doing so. Cultural unfamiliarity, inadequate bi-lingual worker training in professional terminology, and issues with translators and interpreters are all factors to be considered.

It was hypothesized that the relationships between clients and workers may depend on shared culture, that cultural differences due to different backgrounds and countries of origin may hinder working relationships. Through qualitative face to face interviews, this study gained insight into Spanish-speaking client and worker perspectives on their working relationships. The study aimed to understand the advantages and limitations to matching clients and workers solely on shared language. Findings suggest that cultural similarities or differences were not the primary relationship concerns for either workers or clients. Rather, both clients and workers expressed more salient concerns related to the lack of resources for translation and interpretation, the absence of worker Spanish-language training, clients’ limited willingness/ability to advocate for themselves, and increased workload and supervisory lack of support.

It is recommended that supervisors take part in mandatory trainings aimed at managing such complex caseloads, that workers receive continuous Spanish language training in professional terminology as well as case management training tailored towards this specific population, and that a more uniform and informative approach is developed when working with these families. Although the present study attempts to address the knowledge gap involving client perspectives, additional research should focus on client experiences more heavily. Further research is also needed in assessing the adequacy of county-made language certification tests and worker perception of language competency while out in the field.

Included in

Social Work Commons