On Thursday, January 25, 2024, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) conducted a webinar, “Culture is Healing: Removing Barriers from Culturally Responsive Services.” The panel provided a comprehensive discussion surrounding the necessity of culturally-informed and community-based supportive services for families and children of color that are often disproportionately underserved or inappropriately served. A significant emphasis was placed on the barriers that are experienced by such essential programs due to the narrow definition of “evidence-based” adopted by funding sources, as well as the difficult bureaucratic processes.

Community-based support programs are valuable resources for diverse populations of parents and children. Positive impacts from community-based programs include a potentially greater establishment of trust and positive relationships between the program organization and community population.

However, numerous community-based programs continue to face financial and other challenges in providing these benefits throughout the United States. A significant contributor to the operational hardships is the state and federal government’s extremely particular standards for what can be considered to meet the requirement of evidence in evidence-based practices. Although an abundance of these beneficial programs have what may be community-based evidence of effective practices, funding authorities often do not recognize such expansive perspectives rather than more expensive evaluation measures, which provides further challenges in qualification for evidence-based practice funding. Additionally, several bureaucratic hurdles have also become barriers to the culturally relevant programs. RFPs, paperwork, and other parts of the extensive funding processes lead to delays in the obtainment of necessary funds and make it more difficult for the programs to effectively serve families. Potential solutions to the previously noted challenges for community-based programs include increasing the flexibility of funding, eliminating the strict definition of evidence-based practices, being able to utilize community evidence in RFPs, greater state and federal support in development of new programs through grants and evaluation assistance, and other interventions.

By Emmalyn Walenda, Policy Intern