This paper aims to identify some disciplines of the theory about the cross cultural practice, as being seen by the anthropological point of you, in the practice of a family intervention program, Home Start.
To begin with, some of the main points of the theory about cross- cultural practice that anthropology proposes are presented, to be followed by the main goals and structural modules of Home Start. Finally the international aspects of the intervention program are more closely referred in order to be examined how these meet the theory, as mentioned by the beginning.
Anthropology and Cross- Cultural Practice
One of the fundamental ideas of the discipline of anthropology is that development varies from culture to culture, and that our western models of development may not be valid for people in all cultures. However, in the history of its on theories, anthropology has tried to answer questions about how development is similar or differs across cultures, adopting three dominant backgrounds. These are the controversial theories of universalism and cultural relativism, the debate of which has led to the proposal of cultural pluralism, as a more modern aspect to its resolution.
Universalism was supported by some very well known anthropologists, like Gutmann, Levi Strauss and Spiro and is based on the idea that human development is shared across species. Universalists are interested in examining the ways development is the same between cultures, by the argument that we share a common biology as human beings.
Universalism introduces some very interesting implications for practice. Concerning it, if development is biologically determined and therefore everywhere the same, we should be able to apply our models across cultures without alternation; they should be relevant to all. However, as Nye (2005) proposes; the misapplication of clinical models, ideals and norms of development to clients from different cultures can devalue indigenous models and pathologize culturally different development.
The theory of relativism stands at the exact opposite site, supporting that development is socially constructed rather than biologically given. The focus is now being put on what is different across cultures when the question refers to development. However, in the 1990s the area of focused of some theorists of relativism, moved from the difference to cultures to questioning whether true cross-cultural understanding was possible. The latter was defined as the capacity to take the "native's point of view" essential to anthropological study and this new mind was given the name "radical relativism".
In general, the implications of both relativism and radical relativism for practice are rather problematic. Since understanding is one of the most important components of researching into social sciences the idea that cross- cultural understanding might be impossible, leads to many steps behind. The big amount of knowledge that has been gathered from data from the western world, have too little to tell us for many other cultures. This knowledge needs to be broadened and get discarded.
As mentioned already above, the theory of cultural pluralism is the most recent position to anthropological discussions, as it has been emerged out of the debate between the two previous positions. According to cultural pluralists there is a common and shared biological substrate that exists at birth in between humans, whereas cultures select from this shared human potential and shape development differently across the life course. In this frame of mind, it is important to be mentioned that it is not some reified "culture" which selects and constructs, but cultural practices as they are enacted by individuals and groups which sustain and change cultures and their developmental models and values.
According to cultural pluralists, because of the shared biological substrate, the psychic unity, which underlies culturally constructed difference, each of us retains the potential ability to resonate to experience and understand across lines of culture. Cross cultural understanding may require accessing unrealized aspects of our own potential, aspects which have not been valued or developed in our own cultures and which therefore lie dormant us. Filling in these blanks or gaps we will require our further development.
Finally, the implications of cultural pluralism for practice, gives much optimism to the area of cross-cultural research. What is for sure, is that even when adopting the idea of a universal substrate, research should be aware, recognize, value and accommodate difference in models of health, growth, and care which exist in other cultures, as well as the different human potentials that other cultures (Fadiman, 1997) have chosen to emphasize and develop (Nye, 2005).
In response to the awareness that the first 5 years of life are of great importance to further child development, several initiatives for early intervention have been developed to counter possibly negative outcomes. Early intervention programs are designed to support healthy development progress in families with young children. The long- term goal of these interventions is the prevention of family dysfunction and behavioral problems of the child in later developmental periods (Barnes, 2003; Osofsky, 1998).
Home start is one of those, especially aimed at parenting support. The main goal of such programs is to improve family functioning by means of supporting parents. One of the underlying theories of social support parenting interventions is that by providing social support, one may influence a parent's sense of competence and feelings of self- efficacy and, in turn, his or her parenting behavior (Asscher, Hermanns, Dekovic, 2008).
Home visiting programs support families in a demand- oriented strategy and target actual family and parenting problems as parents themselves experience and define them. Parents are encouraged to design and evaluate self-generated solutions. There are stringent protocols for the way this support is given, but self- evidently, there is no predetermined program in which concrete parenting issues in a stepwise order are addressed. Distinct intervention modules present step- by- step guidelines for communicating with children, using rewards and punishment, setting limits, and dealing with misbehavior (this part is from the research proposal as it was literature from you for the course, how should I refer to it?).
The program works with volunteers who are all parents and visit families for half a day once a week. All new volunteers are required to attend a free course of preparation, with both practical and theoretical session, focused on the Home Start approach, the ethics of visiting other people in their home, some basic child development, an understanding of relationships and a knowledge of resources in the community. Moreover, during their services, that are pre- required to last for at least six months, receive support from their local Home- Start organization. Provision of social support by the volunteers is geared to increase maternal well-being. Increased maternal well-being is thought to result in more positive parenting behavior, which in turn ought to lead to the reduction of behavioral problems in children (Harrison, 1981).
What is important about Home start is that it has proved conclusively that what such families need above all else FIRST, is someone who can visit them informally, on a one- to - one basis in their own homes, where their problems exist and where their dignity and identity can be respected and protected, and where the focus can be on THEM. What volunteers do offer however is their unique personalities, their own experiences of life, and attitudes that are fostered by the scheme, rather than a fixed method of involvement (Harrison, 1981).
By using volunteers, the objectives of home start are;
To offer support, friendship and practical assistance to families with children under five.
To be available to families who are experiencing frustrations and difficulties.
To visit families in their own homes where the problems exist and the individual's dignity and identity can be respected.
To develop on a one- to- one basis a relationship in which time, flexibility of approach and understanding can be shared with the other parent.
To encourage the parents' strengths and emotional wellbeing in order that these may be transmitted to their children, thus enhancing their development.
To reassure parents that difficulties in bringing up children are not unusual and to emphasize the pleasure of family life.
To encourage families to widen their network of relationships and to use community support and services effectively.
To work towards the increased confidence and independence of the family unit.
Cross Cultural Practice and Home Start
Established in 1999, Home Start International is a UK charitable trusts with an international focus. Its mission is to help families in countries where they have schemes by supporting the development and sustainability of the Home- Start service.
Based on the Home- Start ethos of choice (families choose to have Home- Start support) encouragement (volunteers encouraging parents) and respect (Home- Start recognizes the diversity in families), home start works at the heart of communities helping families tackle a range of issues to help them care for their children. Across the world Home- Start is working with families;
Where it is the norm to institutionalize children when families find it hard to cope, in Eastern Europe and Russia
Experiencing isolation and deprivation in rural Australia
Living with addiction and substance abuse in Western Europe
Who are devastated by HIV/ Aids in Africa
Who are refugees and displaced
With mental health, physical ability, multiple births or any of the other challenges any family can face regardless of wealth or geography throughout the world (Home Start International Annual Report, 2005).
Going on with the comments on its practice, it should first be stressed out how Home Start International is a very good example of cross- cultural application of an intervention design. However, what makes its function so appealing, is the way that seems to combine both the ideas of the commonalities of human nature, as Universalism implies, as well as the respect in cultural differences, concerning Relativism. Then we can conclude that the idea behind the international practice lays in the principles of cultural pluralism in many ways;
Although the program shares a common basic vision, that is the support of the healthy development progress in families with young children, it seems to have more specified focus, concerning the special needs of the area it takes place. As it has been referred above, the characteristics of the target families are much different for each local Home Start organization. These targets are what it is considered as missing components for children and families' welfare as these are defined by that specific culture.
Every 'branch' that belongs to the Home Start International organization works with local volunteers. All the volunteers start their action after following a preparation seminar in order to get introduced to the basic concepts, beliefs and policies of the program in general, but as being local, they can adopt those and interpret them in terms with their unique culture, that is the same of the families that they will be asked to support.
If we can claim that the above-mentioned facts can carry a cultural pluralistic character at the Macro level-placement of the organization- and the Meso level-volunteers- of the program, so is being done in the Micro level too. And it is the family itself to belong there. As it has been referred already, parents are encouraged to design and evaluate self-generated solutions, whereas there is no predetermined program in which concrete parenting issues in a stepwise order are addressed. This makes clear, that even in within a specific cultural background, the program serves in respect to the characteristics and need to every different family participating in it, still accepting the common needs for welfare and healthy development.
Finally, it should be referred that, although the program seems to offer a very good structure compared to the most modern tendencies for cross cultural practice, this presentation misses much empirical data on how all those processes are taking place. A broad vision, with narrower regional focus is appealing as an idea, yet the loss of specific definition of them, or of guidelines on putting it into practice can lead much more easily to misunderstandings, misinterpretations or even malpractices. It is then the turn of volunteers' proper training and optimistic numbers of effectiveness to have been reported to argue against the previous positions.