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Jamestown S'Klallam's vice chairman studying racial disproportionality

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Jamestown S'Klallam Vice Chairman Liz Mueller is on the state committee studying racial disproportionality in the state's child welfare system.

The report was expected to be released June 25, followed by a two-day symposium at the University of Washington College of Law. Mueller is co-chairman of the Racial Disproportionality Advisory Committee; the others are Patricia H. Clark, King County Superior Court judge, and Marian S. Harris, associate professor of social work at the University of Washington.

The advisory committee was created in the 2007 Legislature to investigate racial disproportionality and identify where in the system it occurs. The report includes data from 58,000 children who were referred to Child Protective Services in 2004 and follows them through November 2007.

Cheryl Stephani, an assistant secretary of the state Department of Social and Health Services, wrote in a guest column in The Seattle Times that she expects the report will mirror a national study, which showed black and American Indian/Alaska Native children were ''overrepresented'' in the foster care system and ''had poorer outcomes than their white peers.''

The advisory committee will develop and present a remediation plan to the Legislature by Dec. 1. The plan could include involving extended family members and individuals close to the family in the agency's decisions about a child, and identifying high-risk behaviors and living situations that increase the likelihood of child maltreatment.

State offers online health-provider training in cultural competency

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Online training in cultural competence is now available to mental health service providers and agency directors in Washington state. Sponsors say it underscores the need for mental health professionals to interact effectively with people of different cultures.

The training was created by the Washington Institute for Mental Health Research and Training of Eastern Washington, with funding from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

''As stewards of mental health care, it is absolutely crucial that we approach all interactions with consumers, family members and other providers in a culturally respectful fashion,'' institute director John Roll said in a press release.

Cultural competency, according to the National Center for Cultural Competence, encompasses four elements: awareness of one's own cultural view; openness toward cultural differences; knowledge of other cultural practices and worldviews; and cross-cultural communication skills.

Roll said the material in the online course is intended to expand cultural knowledge and the dynamics of cultural differences; facilitate the adaptation of services to meet culturally unique needs; and offer useful information and tools to better assess and increase cultural competence in an organization.

Roll said the training will be updated several times a month to keep it current. The course is offered to professionals and the public at no cost.

The online training is available at www.spokane.wsu.edu/researchoutreach/WIMIRT/cc/logon.aspx.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at rmwalker@rockisland.com.

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