Community members, business owners and county leaders attended a cultural competency training sponsored by the Lincoln County Child Advocacy Center Friday. Because the child advocacy center is accredited, they have to follow ten accreditation standards, one of which is to provide cultural competency awareness to the community, according to Sherry Reinhardt, the executive director for the Lincoln County Child Advocacy Center.
“This was a free class that was offered to the community to come out and learn how to work in a group in a manner that is proper to everybody,” Reinhardt said. “Not just proper to everybody but that everybody is inclusive in and learning our own biases, because we all have them, and being aware of other people in our groups and teams.”
A very diverse group of people attended the training from law enforcement, county employees, Special Olympics staff, mental health providers, Lincoln County Child Development Center employees, as well as staff from the Lincoln County Child Advocacy Center and two other North Carolina child advocacy centers.
“We’re real excited by the turn out,” Reinhardt said. “Earlier this morning, we played a survivor game – if we were all on a deserted island what would we rank as most important to stay alive? It was really challenging because all of us had different things on the list we were given that we thought was most important to stay alive. This is really pertinent when it comes to our cases because a multi-disciplinary team or any team in the community has lots of different members from lots of different entities. It was interesting to see what each person picked as the number one thing they needed to survive.”
The training was provided by Dream Builders Communications, Inc. based out of Cornelius and led by Christopher McCoy and Billy Marsh.
“Part of this course is to show people that even though we may seem different, there’s a lot more similarity than there is difference,” McCoy said. “This training is premised around understanding, effective communication and discovery. We want individuals to understand where they come from, what they bring to the table and discovering that there is commonality regardless of the background of the individual and we can work together and build one another.”
McCoy hopes that people will leave the training both inspired and questioning themselves, to be real and honest with themselves and to ask that of others. “Cultural competence” is a term used to describe a set of skills, values and principles that acknowledge, respect and work towards optimal interactions between the individual and the various cultural and ethnic groups that an individual might come in contact with. Effective communication and a desire for mutual respect and empathy are two important aspects of the training.
One of the attendees was Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam as well as several members of his staff.
“I felt like my command and intermediate staff, as well as myself, should be here and take advantage of this training and to show support to the child advocacy center,” he said. “We deal with these things in law enforcement all the time. So far this training has helped me to see how we may be perceived, how we’re received by others and what some of our triggers may be. Everyone has biases and we need to make sure that we treat people by the content of their character more than what we see as far as the latest fashion or what they say. That’s a big one for us. We run into people all the time who are terribly upset and are in an emergency type situation. Either they’re very scared or very angry. Sometimes they don’t want to be reasonable and we have to be the calming influence to get them to come back down. Any time we can learn new ways of doing that is important.”
Trudie Crawford, a counselor with a practice in Denver who contracts with the Lincoln County Child Advocacy Center on an as-needed basis, also attended the training.
“You never know what ethnic background, phase of life or where your client’s going to come from,” she said. “We are only really aware of our own perspectives sometimes and are very quick to judge everything according to that, so getting in touch with how we feel, what our triggers are and where we go in our minds is super important, so when we meet someone different from us we’re starting on a ground level. A lot of times we may think that we’re the most open minded person in the world and we don’t know that we have ingrained biases.”