Care Approach

Copyrighted by Aaron T. Olson, 2001

In presenting information and strategies to maximize our full potential in a growing multicultural workforce and society, I will discuss the use of the CARE Approach principle which is an acronym for being Compassionate, Attentive, Responsive and Eclectic. The CARE Approach is defined as a value based concept and principle that promotes strategies to optimize harmony in individual, group, and organizational relationships. It can be used, but is not limited to approaches dealing with incidents, issues or problems. It has universal and international application to business, communities, government, military, schools, non-profit organizations, and all people. It is humanistic in design and maximizes the Affective Domain of human behavior for learning and performance.

In the context of the Affective Domain, I mean values, beliefs, feelings, and attitudes. Some people have called the CARE Approach “the Golden Rule” in regards to “treat others the way you would want to be treated” and I agree with that comment. Unfortunately, not everyone knows or by their actions, practice the “Golden Rule” in their public and private lives, and its meaning conjures up ambivalent reactions.

In 2001 the CARE Approach was designed by me to provide awareness and strategies to improve upon workforce and community relationships needed in public safety. Since its development, thousands of people have received training on the CARE Approach which includes fire, police, corrections, 911, medical, business, and transportation professionals, and community college and university students.

The CARE Approach has been taught as part of the problem solving curriculum with multicultural awareness, instructor development, employee interpersonal relations, and supervisor training classes. Further, the CARE Approach received national and international attention in the 2009 publication of Prentice Hall’s textbook Multicultural and Diversity Strategies for the Fire Service by co-writers Herbert Z. Wong, Ph.D., and Aaron T. Olson, M.Ed. (Wong and Olson, 2009).

Businesses, communities, local, state and federal government, the military, schools, and non-profit organizations will benefit from using these CARE Approach strategies when either on the scene of an emergency; investigating a crime or incident; helping customers or the public; working with co-workers; or working with other organizations; or making tough policy decisions that impacts everyone. There are four elements in the CARE Approach and each component will be discussed fully. All four elements align themselves in the triad of cognitive, personal, and environmental factors in human functioning as explored in the Social Cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986 & Schunk, 2000). Regardless if the circumstances are operational (formal) or personal (informal) the principles are useful and effective for both conditions.

The four elements of the CARE Aproach are:
1. Compassionate
2. Attentive
3. Responsive
4. Eclectic

Compassionate behavior is motivated with an urge to help and is self-less. Many people who choose a service oriented profession do so because they want to help people. Recruiters representing these professions want people who possess compassion and are motivated to help people in all situations. These attributes are essential and make up the values of these service professions. Caring professionals recognize the importance of showing compassion through their actions to customers and the public but these professionals still need to take care of each other, their co-workers. Work related stress for all occupations, demands organizations need to care for their employees and show compassion to the rank and file.

Attentive behavior means being observant, considerate, and devoted. This second CARE Approach element helps service oriented professions interact with customers, the public and each other more effectively in the processing of information. Social cultural and social cognitive theories provide substance to this principle. Specifically, this observational learning behavior involves the four sub processes of attention, retention, production, and motivation (Bandura, 1986 & Schunk, 2000). The payoff is a person’s awareness is enhanced and they are better able to focus on the task they are attempting to accomplish.

Responsive is the third element of the CARE Approach principle and it means to take action on a situation or request. This enables the professional to externalize their behavior in a proactive form based on their training, knowledge, personal and organizational values. The ability to be responsive means one must practice their listening and observational skills, and be able to ask inquisitive questions. In this process issues or pressing matters needing to be dealt with are handled in a timely and responsible manner. Further, the negative traits of inertia, avoidance and the ignoring of problems are eliminated.

Eclectic is the fourth CARE Approach element which means to select a strategy from available systems, theories or sources to deal with a problem or challenge. This provides several options and tailors one’s choice to the specific need or issue. This is problem solving and involves assessment and analytical skills. In order to have these skills one must take advantage of formal and informal means of continuing education. Formal continuing education consists of attending professional courses offered by training organizations or taking college classes at the undergraduate or graduate level. Informal continuing education includes reading books, journals, and professional magazines.

Academically, the CARE Approach has been used as part of the term paper assignments in Cultural Diversity in Criminal Justice Professions classes, CJA (Criminal Justice Administration) 101 and Multicultural Strategies for Firefighters classes, FP (Fire Protection) 210, at Portland Community College, Portland, Oregon, in which students have been asked to interview an adult in their community about multicultural issues from a checklist. One of the questions has read “Ask them to identify any type of problem in Oregon or anywhere, and why is it a problem? Then you, as a problem solver use the strategies of the CARE Approach in describing how you could help solve or reduce that problem.” I know this because I am the instructor who designed both of these accredited college courses and their curriculum. Many students from other degree programs have completed the CARE Approach assignments as well.

Students who receive instruction on the CARE Approach training sessions are formed into small groups and then presented with different scenarios to problem solve. They are asked to apply each component of the CARE Approach in an allotted time frame, asked to reach a group consensus in dealing with the scenario, and then asked to report their findings back to the entire class. A discussion follows each group presentation and the scenarios are customized to the specific profession. A sampling of criminal justice community college scenarios are available for viewing on the YouTube links listed in this literature along with a final scenario to problem solve for the viewer. Other professions which have received the CARE Approach training have had their own customized scenarios to meet their own specific workforce and operational needs.

The CARE Approach is an effective leadership strategy in all professions for decision making; to improve co-worker relationships; and when interacting with the public and customers. It touches on the Affective Domain of human behavior for learning and performance. It provides a practical and humanistic approach to dealing with incidents, issues and problems that all too often go unnoticed or ignored. In using the CARE Approach, everyone will have another available “tool” from their “toolbox” to take actions in being compassionate, attentive, responsive, and eclectic to the needs of their co-workers, customers, the public, other organizations, and equally important, their families and friends.

The CARE Approach is protected under International and USA copyright laws. You will have my permission to use the CARE Approach in your own writings if you provide the proper citation and reference me as the author. Please email me at and describe what you will use the CARE Approach material for and provide me a copy of your document referencing the use of the CARE Approach.

The CARE Approach Training Videos

Created by Aaron T. Olson, M.Ed.
Part 1: History of the CARE Approach
Part 2: Introduction to the CARE Approach
Part 3: Group Activities:
Group 1 Activity
Group 2 Activity
Group 3 Activity
Group 4 Activity
Group 5 Activity
Part 4: Conclusion


Bandura, A. (1986). Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Olson, A.T. (2007). The CARE Approach. Retrieved June 2, 2007, from
Schunk, D.H. (2000). Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective, 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Wong, H.Z, and Olson, A.T. (2009). Multicultural and Diversity Strategies for the Fire Service. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Contact Mr. Olson to schedule an appointment for consultation services or training workshops.