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LA County Supes Moves To Address ‘Gaps’ in Language And Cultural Competency

Two children carrying stuffed toys walk with a woman down outdoor stair steps. They are all wearing masks.
L.A. County wants to improve service gaps for Asian and Indigenous communities.
AFP via Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is asking the Department of Children and Family Services to expand cultural awareness training for staff, identify translation service gaps and work with established nonprofits to address them.

The move is to address “gaps in language proficiency and cultural competency” in the department, according to the board. There are several groups where people’s language needs are not being met, including in Asian and Indigenous communities.

One of those groups is CIELO's Center for Indigenous Language and Power, where Aurora Pedro coordinates interpreters.

“A language barrier is the difference between life and death as we've seen with the case of Andres, the four-year-old Akateko boy,” Pedro said.

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Andres was taken from his mother, who speaks Akateko, an Indigenous Guatemalan language, and placed in a foster home, where he was critically hurt. The boy's family claims they could not effectively communicate with social workers and that played a role in his removal from the home. The boy's foster mother has pleaded not guilty to assault and child abuse charges.

Pedro says she works with Indigenous families who've had kids taken away due to a lack of communication. For example, a parent takes a sick child to the doctor who gives them instructions for care.

“How would the mother or father understand what those directions are? And it could come off as neglect,” she said.

Pedro insists social workers must be trained to identify Indigenous languages so they can call in an interpreter.

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