We are starting a male support group for our
male staff. We are a residential program that works with adolescent girls,
and our male staff face some difficult situations at times. I was wondering
if any other programs had done some work on this, and if so, whether they
would help us out.
Director of Residential Operations
Germaine Lawrence Inc.
I'm senior author on a government funded national study here in Ireland (along with Brody Cameron, Susan McKenna and Ashling Duggan Jackson) looking at gender takeup issues in child and youth care with a particular focus on males. We're doing focus groups in five Irish Colleges and distributing 500 questionnaires. Results should be complete in October of this year and we would be happy to share the findings with you. I wrote a paper on CYC-Net titled Males: An Endangered Species in Child and Youth Care** and that's exactly the landscape in Ireland at the moment. In out pilot study we found only 4.1% males studying child and youth care across Certificate, Diploma and Degree programmes in a major training college. Good luck...
Niall C. McElwee, PhD.
I'm not sure what kind of problems you are referring to regarding men working with female clients [and co-staff], but I can guess. I have been in that situation myself. I noticed that there is a tremendous need among kids for attention from men. The same kids who want that attention have reasons to mistrust men, as it is men who have abandoned them more times. I try to be as predictable to those kids as possible, making great effort to be a few minutes early for scheduled visits, for example.
Many clients, more often females, have been molested by males who were in a trust relationship. This has awakened their sexuality, and attuned it to be indiscriminately receptive and/or aggressive. These girls misinterpret affection from male staff at times, and yet, still need large doses of non-sexual affection in order to de-sexualize touch, and reclaim/rebuild a healthy orientation. They also need to be trained to have appropriate boundaries.
The strong need for male staff to model both good
boundaries and therapeutic touch is complicated by the prospect of
allegations which a client can make either in malice or misunderstanding.
Some group-care facilities handle this problem by adopting a "no-touch"
policy. I challenge that policy for group-care because I think it puts the
[legal] needs of the worker ahead of the child, and leaves the tail wagging
Perhaps you smell a compromise coming... I hope there is a good solution to this problem. I have a few thoughts to throw into the ring. It may be possible to satisfy the worker's need for legal protection and the child's need for affection by making wise choices about the manner in which we demonstrate that affection.
1] Limit touch to age-appropriate styles. Physical play
should be different with a 7-yr-old than with a 17-yr-old. [Duh]
2] Pick your locations wisely. It would be unwise, for instance, to spend much time waking a girl in her bedroom, even with the door open.
3] Hugs, grooming, or play should have the consent of the child.
4] With hostile clients, or those with a history of allegations, it would be smart to have other staff around when in close proximity.
I guess I skipped over the question of re-traumatizing sexually-abused children, even by non-sexual touch that they initiate or welcome: Is it presumptuous of me to assume that some internal struggles may be a necessary part of reclaiming a healthy sexual identity? Sexualised children need to learn that not everything is sexual.
I have heard that a way of reducing a girl's likelihood of future promiscuity is for her to get lots of affection, particularly from her father. I have heard of numerous studies which link fatherly affection of daughters to a plethora of benefits to the girls. I am making the leap that workers can stand in that gap, to some extent, when the father is absent.
Let me know how your research goes please...
P.S. What are the stats in Canada regarding CYC's and allegations of abuse?
Hey, I found this great model for team building called Partnership Accountability that comes out of the Dulwiche Center (I think in New Zealand) written by Rob Hall. It is really amazing to look at this model in terms of building team support when there are different levels of group power tracing the arenas that we work in. The basic premise is to give voice and power to disempowered and even neglected or disempowered groups. It is focused on how to overcome sexism in the workplace but I have applied it to conflicts in which a group of individuals were controlling air-time and decision making in Teaming sessions by setting up a model that we could all plug into and change our roles. IT honors reflective listening and is very solution oriented. You could say that is a very "pro-feminist" model of communication and relationship building.
Check it out.
Sounds very interesting Peter. Our organization mimics the macro system in a micro way — it brings an interesting focus to the challenges presented to the child & youth field in general - can you provide more information about how, where to access this information — on the net? phone numbers? publishers? agencies?