Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Holy Hanna, They're Mad

Here's the scoop. I'm still controversial. I'd been thinking the last little while that my message must have become mainstream. But yesterday in doing a lecture on abuse prevention and abuse reporting, the idea that front line staff a) don't investigate and b)call the police before calling a supervisor - things that are just the way things are done. Things we've been doing in Vita for a couple of years now. Well, well, well ... did some people get mad at me.

I heard that people with disabilities can't be trusted.

They make mistakes.

They misunderstand things.

Accidents happen that become reports of abuse.

I heard that front line staff can't be trusted.

They make mistakes.

They can't handle the responsibility

And for the first time in a long time I got into a wee bit of a shouting match with people in my audience. My heart was pumping, my attention was at full alert ... it was kind of fun. Because I'm so often around those of similar mind and similar practice,I can forget that we're still leading, still setting the pace.

Of course I thought of this all overnight and came up with ways that I could have handled it better. In the example we were using when the firestorm broke out there were other things I could have said and kept the integrity of the message.

But what was good for me, was to have an arguement with equal passion on both sides and equal caring on both sides. There was a time I would have villified those who disagreed with me in such a manner. I'm of an age now to realize that two people can have good intent but believe in different practice. Particularly when old practice (believed to be best) is challenged and new ways are being suggested.

I mulled the whole thing over in my head and came round to the fact that, such as it is, this is my job. To get yelled at by those who see change as a threat to the status quo. When people stop getting annoyed. Stop writing nasty comments about the content of my presenation, it'll be time to fold up the tents.

I'm guessing that's a ways away.


Anonymous said...

Passion, it energizes us. Wish I was there standing next to you - and thanks for reminding me - I am so proud of all our staff. MDN

Belinda said...

Please leave those tents up! Anything of any importance has to be worked and wrestled through. You put your finger on something in the topic you discussed, and brought out into the open the hidden motivations and presumptions that people feel justified in. It's not until they are out in the open and discussed that in the give and take and argument even, that what is right becomes evident and obvious (even if it is eventually). Good for you for entering the fray. As if you would do anything else! :)

FAB said...

Wow Dave, thanks for this post! I sometimes forget and somehow take it personally when people get angry about the message. It's easy to feel defeated when hearing those attitudes frequently, but the truth is that those discussions are where change ignites! Thanks for reminding me!

Anonymous said...


I wish we didn't live in a world where folks underestimate the people being supported and the folks providing support. Given a chance, I think both parties can shock others with what they can do.

Thanks for being out there and fighting the good fight. Hope to see you here in Missouri again soon.


Anonymous said...

At our agency, it is written in our abuse policy that only the ED is to have contact with the police.


Andrea Shettle, MSW said...


I don't know what "ED" means in this context. Can you spell it out, please?


Elizabeth McClung said...

I am guessing the executive director. It doesn't matter, I've called the police after being abused and they wouldn't come or log it; then they told me they needed to take "real 911 calls" - when I called the switchboard and was put through to the duty desk (ergo, there is no 911 hookup, it is just a line to blow people off). When police in my city hear you are under care, they say, tell the care agency, if it is really important, they will call us. The care agency said that I could have an investigation but that I would lose care if I asked for it. I said I did. They didn't but I did lose care; they amended my care plan to remove one aspect of care. It was a rather unsubtle hint - but then I am in a Canadian city where people die and hundreds of complaints are made and the same company still operates (does all caregiver and all meal prep as well now). I've actually yet to find anyone who has had the police come for anything (including robbery - they won't come for that either, I have been told by 2 or 3 people once I started asking). I've even had a watch commander say, "Yes, what is going on is illegal, but we are not going to come." Haha - Welcome to Victoria Canada!

Emily said...

Just seconding what Belinda said, because she said pretty much what I was going to.

To Elizabeth McClung, you have my utmost sympathy and I'm angry with your agency on your behalf! I've seen and heard of that sort of - not disinterest, really, maybe more like disrespect/dismissal - even experienced it myself to some degree (or certainly felt those attitudes before) and it makes me angry. I think that here in Rhode Island things are improving - perhaps slowly - but there is still a long way to go. They now do a program with clients (gee, I hate that word, but I guess it's better than 'consumers') about awareness of/combating sexual abuse, and as part of it we think of ways staff can be helpful/supportive.

Number one on the list was listening with respect and taking the person at their word. Obviously I don't know the specifics of your situation but at the least it sounds like you were not granted basic respect. At worst, it sounds like you were punished for coming forward! Not cool, and if it's legal, well, it shouldn't be.

I'm sorry your staff and agency are behaving this way. Is there anything anybody might do for you/others like you? An awareness campaign? Again, I am so sorry to hear that that goes on and will head over to your page now.