Racial Equity and Cultural Competence

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Definition of Cultural Competence

We embrace the need to be culturally competent to meet the challenges of our mission and demonstrate the behaviors that define our values. For our purposes, cultural competence is defined as the ability of all agency staff to provide the highest quality of services to our customers, the children, youth, families and vulnerable adults of New York State, by responding respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, ability status, and faiths or religions, and in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, tribes, and communities, and protects and preserves the dignity of each.
— September 16, 2014


The NYS Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) recognizes the negative impact that racial and ethnic disproportionality and disparity have on children and families of color who come into contact with our child welfare, juvenile justice and other systems. It is a problem for those who are most overrepresented and who receive differential treatment and access to services, and for those children and families who are unable to access services and assistance and are therefore under represented. In essence, the entire system is effected by disproportionate minority representation and racial and ethnic disparities.

OCFS commits to identifying, addressing and reducing disproportionality and to eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in our systems of care and custody. We will do so, in part, by becoming more culturally responsive in providing services to a diverse customer base and by providing services that include our respect for and consideration of cultural differences.

In order to clarify the work that we intend to do on this important issue, and to remain aligned with other efforts throughout the nation, we have changed the name of the committee from Disproportionate Minority Representation and Cultural Competence to the Committee on Racial Equity and Cultural Competence.

“We should not tolerate disparate treatment of people of color within the criminal justice system. It denigrates the American ideal of equality of fairness to all. In addition it threatens our public safety, the integrity of our justice system and the quality of our society. It is time that all of us – legislators, law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges – collaborate collectively and courageously to eradicate this stigma.”
— James Williams, public defender, District 15B, North Carolina