One America Community Efforts
Little Bar

Program: Culturally Competent Health and Human Services, St. Paul, MN
Contact(s): Claudia Dengler, Dir. Services to Children and Families: (612) 642-4046
Purpose: To work with individuals and families whose access to community resources is severely limited and to strengthen the capacity of people to meet their own needs by serving the central urban communities of St. Paul

Background Program Operations Outcomes


The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation is a large, private, nonprofit health and human service organization established in 1906. One of the Wilder Foundation's three major service groups is the Services to Children and Families (STCF). STCF improves the lives of children by strengthening the capacity of individuals to function successfully in their homes, schools and communities, and by helping families, schools and communities foster the well-being of children. Many of the programs are comprehensive interventions that mix mental health, social, educational and skill development services. One of the four programs within STCF is Mental Health and Education Services. In the last 20 years the multicultural composition of the St. Paul community has grown dramatically. Although Minnesota is predominantly white, there is a rapidly growing population of Southeast Asians. This diversity challenges the Wilder Foundation and the community to provide accessible and effective human services, while addressing the cultural needs of those who do not fit into the system.

Program Operations

In collaboration with the state and the public school system, Mental Health and Education Services created a culturally focused program in 1991 called, KOFI, an African term meaning "a child of growth." KOFI offers support services to black boys, in grade levels three through six, who have been identified with severe emotional problems. By extending academic, family and cultural support to the student and the family, KOFI addresses identity issues, racism in the community, self esteem and cultural pride. The students are involved in social skills and anger management groups. With community resources, KOFI also provides positive after-school activities for the students, memberships for the YMCA, enrollment in a reading program, and funding for day camp during the summer. A community advisory board meets monthly to serve as a link between the KOFI project and the community. In 1983, a multi-generational program, the Social Adjustment Program, was created to serve all of the cultural and ethnic groups from Southeast Asia. This mental health service program is staffed entirely by people who provide individual, family, and group counseling and support. Services are offered in the home, in schools and in the community. Evaluation studies document gains in mental health status, school performance improvement, family functioning and employment. There is a separate program for the parents and for the children. Race is addressed through learning to embrace one's history and American culture.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

To monitor client satisfaction, research is performed by the Wilder Foundation to assess the effectiveness of their operational system revisions and their program services. Program revisions have resulted in an increase in the number of people from communities of color who are served by the Wilder Foundation. Through its effort to foster social justice in St. Paul, the Foundation became the largest private provider of services to communities of color. The Foundation also employs more people of color than any other single private health and human service organization. Documented effectiveness of service to communities of color has improved in the last six years. Evaluation of the programs shows progress in three key areas: school performance, family engagement in education, and cultural pride. In an attempt to make the programs more sensitive, a workbook was created to benchmark the characteristics of services that are culturally sensitive and competent. Through a literature search and key informant survey, the Cultural Competence Workbook was developed as the framework of "organizational characteristics and practices" associated with culturally competent health and human service. These characteristics are presented and translated into a self assessment protocol, which the staff of any program can use to assess cultural competence and program accessibility.

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