2000 Census revealed that almost six percent of Washington's families
speak Spanish at home. In some communities, that percentage is significantly
higher. In Yakima, more than 30 percent of the population speaks
Spanish at home. In Pasco, more than half the population does.
Public services in Washington have not kept pace with growth in
the state's Hispanic population, according to Antonio Ginatta, executive
director of the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs.
While language constitutes a significant obstacle, It's not the
serve their clients respectively and effectively, professionals
who work with Latinos need to understand the mix of cultures and
origins in Latino communities," said Dr. Lori Carraway, WSU
Cooperative Extension faculty in Snohomish County.
This past September, Carraway, who is a licensed family therapist,
helped organize the Empezando conference in Burien to help sensitize
non-Latino family therapists, caseworkers and other professionals
to some of the issues faced by Latino community members and to teach
respectful, practical approaches for working with Latino clients.
"One of the things professionals must do is resist the temptation
to stereotype the Latino community," Carraway said.
"If we don't know better, we might lump everybody who speaks
Spanish into one group. Latinos come from many different regions.
Somebody from a big city in Argentina is going to be very different
than someone from a rural area in Mexico who comes here to pick
Generations within the same family tend to differ as well.
"Children of immigrants are pulled in different directions,"
Carraway said. "The parents' ideas about family, children's
behavior, gender roles and what constitutes proper behavior may
contrast significantly with what kids encounter outside the household.
"Generational rift is more likely when the family is isolated
from extended kin and is especially painful when the family depends
on the child as an interpreter of both language and majority culture."
said the ways in which Latino families operate and the specific
traditions they bring with them depend on their origins, "but
there are themes, such as family cohesiveness and respectful treatment
of others, that override regional differences and serve as anchors
in Latino communities.
of the Empezando conference planning committee.
The conference was held at the Washington State Criminal Justice
Training Center in Burien, Washington, September 22.
is very important. Someone ordered by the court to have therapy,
may show up with his entire family. Professionals need to understand
that working with the family is the way things get done because
the group, not the individual, is primary. This group emphasis
is very different from the mainstream culture's ideal of the rugged
"When troubles happen, family helps. Extended families in
this population have typically taken care of kids, but that's
not quite so true anymore, especially if the kin network is in
Peru or Cuba."
Working through interpreters also can present some challenges
for service providers.
"Many of us need to work with interpreters when we're dealing
with Latino families," Carraway noted. "A lot of interpreters
were doctors or professors at home and may tend to talk down to
less-educated clients. You wouldn't know that unless you were
fluent in Spanish."
are not always available when you need them. Law enforcement officials
sometimes end up relying on a 12-year-old family member to interpret
for her parents because the child is the only member of the family
who can speak English.
"It's expensive to hire interpreters," Carraway said,
"and a lot of agencies either can't or don't find enough
interpreters, or sometimes in an emergency situation, nobody is
available. So, it is important to develop a network of interpreters
and professionals who are fluent in Spanish and who can meet clients'
needs effectively before a crisis strikes."