Working with cultural mediators

A cultural mediator is someone who translates language and explains cultural differences. Someone who can bridge the gap between two worlds: the world the unaccompanied child comes from and the world he or she enters after being offered asylum and reception.

Cultural mediators have a key role in supporting you in your communication with children and in enabling you to exercise your role as intermediary between children, public authorities and service providers. Qualified cultural mediation offers important support for establishing a professional and personal relationship characterised by mutual trust and respect.

  • Training and tools

    Tool: information and examples of using cultural mediators

    The CONNECT-project (2014) has developed the tool ‘Standards to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children are able to fully participate’ to assist all actors in legal and judicial proceedings. This includes standards for actors working with unaccompanied children. Standard four addresses the provision of a cultural mediator and also includes some examples of noteworthy practices. The tool is available here.

    Training: training programme for cultural mediators

    Nidos in the Netherlands is currently (2019) developing a programme for training cultural mediators. The curriculum will be based on Nidos’ previous pilot study on this subject. Cultural mediators will work closely with guardians and other stakeholders in the care system.

  • Good practices

    Italy: registry of volunteer cultural and linguistic mediators

    The Italian municipality of Naples introduced a special registry of volunteer tutors with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to act as cultural and linguistic mediators in 2007. The use of cultural and linguistic mediators is a great support to the work of guardians and aids children’s social integration1.

    Croatia: ‘Life of Unaccompanied Children’ project

    The Croatian Centre for Missing and Exploited Children implemented the project ‘The Life of Unaccompanied Children in Croatia – visible/invisible, abandoned, secure/insecure?’ in 2017-2018. The main objectives of the project were to enhance the cultural competences of professionals directly working with unaccompanied children, and to raise public awareness of the needs and position of unaccompanied children in Croatia. The project established a coordination team for unaccompanied children. In addition, educational workshops were conducted for special guardians, experts from the social welfare system, police officers and healthcare professionals (80 participants in total) from different regions of Croatia. The project also enabled the participation of unaccompanied children, especially for creating leaflets containing basic information on Croatian culture.

    The Netherlands: cultural mediation pilot

    Nidos, the national guardianship institution for unaccompanied children, initiated a cultural mediation pilot which ran from 2016 to 2017. Guardians consulted cultural mediators in over 40 cases during the pilot and experiences were positive. Children and young people find it easy to trust a mediator and this always has a positive effect on their well-being. Besides using cultural mediators for increasing mutual understanding, Nidos also involves them in research and in the development of culturally sensitive trauma interventions. The pilot identified a few pitfalls, for example the importance of being clear about the roles and responsibilities of guardians compared to those of cultural mediators.

    Following the lessons learned from the pilot, Nidos has been integrating cultural mediation into guardianship since 2018, putting in place an application system, a coherent way of working, a monitoring and evaluation system, and training for cultural mediators. The aim is to work towards the professionalisation of cultural mediators.