My first message to Angelo McClain:
Hello Angelo McClain and thank you for creating this email for feedback.
I have been writing to NASW for some time and often have had the frustrating experience of getting no response. The topics I usually bring are simply not pc and have been ignored. I am hoping you may have a different response.
I have been working most of my social work career with men who are traumatized and have developed a number of ideas about the uniqueness of the way men heal. I have come to these conclusions from a variety of sources but one of those sources is the Indigenous African grief rituals and their tendency to treat men very differently in their healing paths following a significant loss. I studied several African tribes and one in particular the Dagura people and found a huge amount of information that helped me in understanding the men in our culture. Much of this is in my first book Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing.
This work has drawn me into seeing the plight of men and boys in our culture today and it is not a pretty sight. Men and boys face hardship and discrimination in a multitude of places and most people are simply unaware of this and focus instead on the hardships and discrimination faced by women and girls. These hardships are not stopped by racial boundaries. A quick look at the black community shows Black women and girls prospering on almost every index far ahead of black males. Why? My belief is that both black men and women face the hardship of racism but black men have the additional burden of all of the hardships of being male.
When I have seen articles that focus on the needs and hardships of women and girls I have usually written to NASW and asked about the male side of things. This is when I usually get ignored. Issues like domestic violence, suicide, divorce, educational opportunities, males in Social Work and many others.
I have been involved with a group that has written a document that covers much of these difficulties and has been presented to the White House as a proposal for a White House Council for Boys and Men. Our thought is that this would parallel the already existing White House Council on Women and Girls. So far the response has been far from enthusiastic. What I would like to see is for NASW to get behind this effort in a similar way that they got behind the creation of a White House Council for Women and Girls.
What do you think? The web site about this group and our proposal can be found here
Thanks for your time in reading this. I do hope to hear back.
McClain responded eight days later:
Thanks for bringing this issue to my attention.
I’m not sure what work NASW did in support of a White House Council on Girls and Women (I’ll have to look into that). And will assess how NASW might get involved in this effort. Next month I will be involved in a national panel discussing the issue of meeting the needs of boys and men.I can tell you that under my leadership as Child Welfare Commissioner in Massachusetts, we made many in roads regarding the issue of fatherhood as discussed in Component 3 of your proposal for a White House Counsel on Boys and Men. Essentially, our work involved getting dads involved (or re-involved) in their children’s lives for children known to child welfare or placed in the foster care system. A part of this work was changing the culture within the community regarding the value that was placed on fatherhood and father’s roles within families. We created Fatherhood Engagement Leadership Teams (FELT Teams) at the 29 Department of Children and Families Area Offices across Massachusetts. The FELT teams were co-lead by a father (with a child known to the system) and a DCF staff person. The bulk of the work was around changing the culture regarding how fathers were viewed, and as you say their healing process. We also did quite a bit of work connecting our work to prevent domestic violence with our fatherhood engagement work. Efforts here were focused on challenging and changing the notion that views men as being especially dangerous. One our biggest accomplishments was hosting an all-day conference in October 2012 that include 15-20 human service and corrections agencies as well as the judiciary. In fact, we had 14 judges and 2 chief justices in attendance. The 14 judges were there for the entire day and had numerous examples of how they had changed their practices to be more engaging and respectful of fathers. The focus of the summit addressed find ways to address institutional barriers and bias that discouraged participation of fathers in their children’s lives. The Summit was a validation that our previous five years of work had made a significant impact within the community. That work continues today.
Wonderful to hear that you have experience in focusing on the needs of men and taking helpful action. Great! My hope is that you can bring that to NASW. Our profession is in dire need of understanding the uniqueness of boys and men and to learn where they face hardship and discrimination. Have you written any on your experience in Massachusetts? Might be great to have something like that in the NASW national newsletter. I wrote an article for the Maryland chapter’s newsletter back in 2009 titled “What Every Social Worker Needs to Know About Men.” That might be good to have in there too.Hi Angelo – Thanks for your response. It’s a breath of fresh air.
I will be curious to hear from you about the history of NASW and the White House Council on Women and Girls. NASW was very active in promoting that council. They signed a letter to the president from a number of women’s organizations about the need for such a council. Numerous articles appeared in the NASW Newsletter about the process. It was big news for some time.
Here’s a link to the letter http://www.now.org/issues/constitution/Letter%20to%20President-Elect%20Obama.pdf
Note that it was signed by “50 Women’s Groups” I am sure you understand how this marginalized our few male members of NASW.
Hi Angelo – It’s been a couple of months since I heard from you and wanted to check and see if you have checked on the NASW connection with the white house council on women and girls. Any news on that? Have you thought of how NASW might support a white house council on boys and men?<<I’m not sure what work NASW did in support of a White House Council on Girls and Women (I’ll have to look into that). And will assess how NASW might get involved in this effort. Next month I will be involved in a national panel discussing the issue of meeting the needs of boys and men.