Virginia’s Partnership for People with Disabilities is a leader in using cultural brokerage within parent-to-parent support. Their UCEDD’s cultural brokerage program began in 2009 with a health department project focused on the experience of Black and Latino families being treated by white doctors. VCU hired parent liaisons for the project and after the project ended, the liaisons began to focus on becoming the bridge builders between the disability community and their cultural communities.
They outreached to agencies and organizations that people from their community would most likely encounter, for example for immigrant communities they outreached to Catholic Charities, social service agencies, schools, and migration and refugee services. They asked questions about the supports these organizations were offering parents of children with disabilities. To fill a gap, their cultural brokers help present trainings focused on disability and co-facilitate support groups for families. With this cultural brokerage program, organizations can also refer those families to the UCEDD and connect them with a broker who is also a parent of a person with a disability, speaks the same language, and is from the same culture as them.
The Partnership for People with Disabilities is committed to researching cultural brokerage using parent-to-parent support and spent two years investigating how to accurately define their cultural brokerage intervention. Research says that parent-to-parent support works best when people have perceived “sameness." Culture is one of those layers of like experience and cultural brokerage served as a mechanism to reach more families in their parent-to-parent work.
They maintain at least six cultural brokers who perform the roles of parent-to-parent support as well as educating their communities about disability. Along the way they’ve learned the following through research and experience that may be helpful for UCEDDs who want to start their own cultural brokerage initiative:
If you want to learn more about the Partnership for People with Disabilities’ cultural broker program, please contact Dana Yarbrough at email@example.com.