Cultural Equity


Since 2009, the Iowa Department of Human Services has promoted cultural equity-focused strategies to address disproportionate racial representation in the child welfare system and disparity of outcomes. The goal for the collaborative efforts is to have supportive networks of teams to identify, develop, test, implement, and spread specific strategies across the state in order to contribute to the development of the child welfare system in Iowa to benefit all children, families, and communities equitably.
  • Disproportionality refers to the difference in the rate at which a racial or ethnic minority group is represented in the child welfare system compared to that rate at which that same group is represented in the census population. 
  • At every point along the child welfare continuum, children and families of color are represented in number that far exceeds their relative proportion of the population. Rates of substantiated maltreatment, out-of-home placement, and length of stay are all higher for children of color than their white counterparts.
  • Disparate outcomes and disproportionate representation is true in many systems including juvenile justice, education, health care, etc. and stems from a complex network of social and political disadvantages at the individual, institutional, and structural levels. 

With this focus, the Cultural Equity Alliance Steering Committee (CEASC) was formed to develop recommendations for implementing systemic changes focused on reducing minority and ethnic disproportionality and disparity in the child welfare system. This statewide collaborative includes the following representatives: DHS (leadership and field staff), providers, courts, Parent Partners, foster care alumni, immigrant and refugee services, other child welfare partners, domestic violence agencies, juvenile justice, race and ethnic diversity and inclusion advocates.

  • In 2016, upon CEASC recommendations, DHS officially adopted fifteen Guiding Principles for Cultural Equity (GPCE) as a framework for moving the equity focused efforts forward, based on the Office of Minority Health national standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services. These guiding principles are focused on governance, leadership and workforce; communication and language assistance; engagement, continuous improvement and accountability.
Additionally, there are county 10 teams that have been working on creating Plan-Do-Study-Act strategies to impact policy and practice change. On these teams are representatives from DHS leadership, direct line staff, community partners, a youth currently in foster care or alumni of foster care, court partners, and parent representative who has been reunified with his/her children. The 10 teams are from the following counties: Blackhawk, Des Moines, Dubuque, Johnson, Linn, Polk, Scott, Wapello, Webster, and Woodbury. 

Who participates

Cultural equity-focused efforts are based on strengthening community collaborative teams with the Iowa Department of Human Services. Community members and child welfare partners may be involved in all aspects of participating in learning exchanges, incorporating the guiding principles, and participating in equity focused teams and learning exchanges.

Learn more

To learn more and be involved in cultural equity efforts, contact Ana Clymer, Cultural Equity State Coordinator, at or 515-281-8381


Additional resources that have been invested in include:
  • Race: The Power of an Illusion (RPI) is a one-day learning exchange designed to increase understanding of the intersections of race, equity, and child welfare.
  • Understanding Implicit Racial Bias: Rewiring Our Perceptions and Intentions is a one-day learning exchange designed to engage participants as they discuss terminology and definitions related to implicit racial bias and decision making. 
  • Toolkit for Courageous Conversations provides a resource “kit” with ideas, exercises and activities to increase global cultural knowledge and skills, and capacity for courageous conversations around race and ethnicity within a group or agency.  
  • Webinars allow viewers to quickly and conveniently learn more about: The Changing Demographic of Iowa and Implications for the Child Welfare System; Working Effectively with Hispanics in Iowa’s Child Welfare System; Working with Human Services Interpreters through In-Person and Telephone Methods.
  • Cultural Equity Resources Facebook page provides easily accessible and current information, such as data, research, training opportunities, and publications focused on disparity and disproportionality in the child welfare system and other intersecting systems. 
  • Introduction to Cultural Equity Resources (ICER) is a 2-hour orientation to the resources developed and supported by the DHS’ Division of Adult, Children & Family Services. The ICER will engage participants as they: learn about and explore the learning exchanges available to attend or host; examine key data points; practice “Courageous Conversations” through interactive activities with a shared language; understand, promote, and incorporate the Guiding Principles, and promote utilization of online learning and resources through CultureVision™, Webinars, and social media.