Who CARES? Interprofessional Competencies for Meeting the Complex Needs of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Foster Youth With Disabilities


  • Tonika Duren Green San Diego State University
  • Sally G. Mathiesen San Diego State University




Foster youth, foster care, child welfare, culture, disability


This paper highlights effective interprofessional competencies for school professionals who are interested in improving the educational path of culturally diverse foster youth who are at risk of a disability or who have a disability. The interprofessional competencies were developed based on the lessons learned in the first three years of a federally funded grant. We propose cost-effective ways to address shortages of highly qualified school personnel to work with diverse foster youth with disabilities. Recommendations to improve practice with diverse foster youth with disabilities include increasing the number of Culturally Affirming and Responsive Education Specialists (CARES; school social workers, school counselors, and school psychologists) who are trained to respond to the educational and mental health needs of diverse foster youth with disabilities, who are culturally competent, who are advocates in schools, and who are skilled at interdisciplinary service delivery.

Author Biographies

Tonika Duren Green, San Diego State University

Dr. Tonika Duren Green is the Director of the School Psychology Program at San Diego State University in Department of Counseling and School Psychology. She teaches courses in Counseling and Social Change, Counseling Intervention, Cognitive Assessment, School Crisis Prevention and Intervention, Practicum and Internship in Schools. She is committed to preparing school psychologists who are multicultural thinkers and actors, who understand how racial, ethnic and sociocultural factors influence student performance. At the center of her research is exploring and responding to issues of children and communities from ethnolinguistically diverse backgrounds. In particular, her research focuses on culturally-affirming school practices that lead to improved outcomes for diverse learners with specific attention to African American students and foster youth. Dr. Green has several peer-reviewed publications, grants, and a book chapter in the area of multicultural competency and increasing achievement of culturally and linguistically diverse children. In her community efforts, Dr. Green contributed to Leave No African American Child Behind and College Bound San Diego task forces and brainstormed solutions to closing the achievement gap and improving student outcomes along side representatives of the Concerned Parents Alliance, Urban League, San Diego United Front, NAACP, and Association of African American Educators (AAAE). She is the Director and Founder of the African American Mentoring Program, which is devoted to recruiting, retaining, and reaching students of African descent. Dr. Green recently received a 5-year $1.25 million federally-funded grant to train school psychologists, school counselors, and school social workers to improve outcomes for children in foster care from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Her grant awards total over 2.5 million dollars.

Sally G. Mathiesen, San Diego State University

Associate Professor at the San Diego State University School of Social Work. She completed her MSW and Ph.D. at the University of Southern California. Her research agenda includes mental health over the lifespan, including co-occurring disorders in adults and mental health in the child welfare sector. She received a Fulbright Scholar award to the University of the West Indies for 2011 to pursue her research agenda regarding treatment of co-occurring psychiatric and substance use disorders and to expand her teaching of evidence-based practice. Dr. Mathiesen is the Chair of the Direct Practice Task Group for the School of Social Work, and was the co-author of the Evidence-Based Practice Curriculum Infusion project at the school.