Supporting Male Carers in Early
Childhood Education Services
Supporting Male Carers in Early Childhood
Education Services
Elaine Dyer, CEO Violence Free Waitakere
Dr Geoff Bridgman, Unitec
Presentation to the ECE conference,
Auckland , 2012
Why is VFW interested?
• The male contribution to domestic violence in New
Zealand is very high
• High father engagement with their children’s
development in the pre-school years lowers levels
of family violence, aggression, divorce, and
increases educational achievement, and social
competence
• Participation rates of men as staff in Early
Childhood Education are very low
Violence Free Waitakere
• Focus on Fathering programme – providing raising
awareness of the male parenting role and creating
supportive interventions
• Awareness raising – FoF week, Westie Dads in
Action Photographic exhibition in a large mall of
dads and kids, Dads Day Out
• Interventions – What did you do at work today
Dad? ECE project
• Related projects: Toddler’s Day Out, Violence Free
Begins with Me, Our Amazing Place
• Pre-school children need access to quality male
caring
• Male carers (dads, etc) need to learn more
about how to relate their preschoolers
ECE services can help both of these things to
happen, so our Aim is:
To identify the ways in which Early Childhood
Education (ECE) services engage with their male
clients (the “male carers”) of the children in
their services.
Engaging Men – 2009 EC-MENz ideas
• Does the centre celebrate the role of men in the lives of young
children?
• Does your centre display pictures of men in early childhood both
as fathers and teachers?
• Does management consult with male employees over policy
/pedagogy such as “touch”, “physicality of play”, and what
constitutes “authentic learning”?
• Does management consult with male employees over the
“learning environment” in terms of learning preferences and
experiences e.g. construction, technology and emphasis on
outdoors?
• Does management expect the same of all employees in the
teacher role such as toileting, changing, application of sunscreen,
opening and the closing of centre and comforting children?
• Is there an openness to being accountable to one another for
gender limitations imposed upon each other?
• Do we treat men and women the same in terms of expectations of
behaviour including the objectification of the opposite sex?
• Does our policy make specific reference to both male and female
teachers so that prospective parents expect male participation?
ECE Services Survey
• Demographic questions – carers, children,
staff, volunteers
• Activities and types of engagement and
communication
• Resources, issues of safety
• Open ended questions around male carer
engagement
Survey Participants
Requests
sent to 89
Waitakere
ECE
services.
42 (47%)
responded
Play-centre
or Cultural
service
7%
Kindergarten
31%
ECE centre
62%
Percent of services with women/men
female only/female
male
Percent
100
80
60
40
20
0
staff
volunteers carers
carers
regularly doing half
3% of all staff are male
seen
or more of
No correlation between %
the dropservices that have staff,
offs
volunteers, carers that are male
Employment of males
60%
percent
50%
40%
30%
Would you employ/
further employ male
teaching staff?
Would your parents
be supportive?
20%
10%
0%
definitely probably not sure
unlikely
Services generally want male staff
• “children absolutely love [male students]”
• “male teachers are fantastic for the children, dads
and families.”
• “men play a major role in the learning and caring
of our children”
• “they are a role model for all children”
• “the response from the older children in having
him [the centre owner] around is profound”
• “the older boys thrive by having a male in the
centre”
But....
• “Parents may ask questions ..... they might be surprised”
• “[They] may question the role a male teacher may play in
caring for their child”
• “for parents to be supportive, we need to sell that - not
all men are the same”
• “suspicion .. due to paedophilia case in the 1980‘s”
• “some [parents] ... feel uncomfortable [around men]
changing nappies”
• “we would feel comfortable placing a male teaching
initially in the older room [not on nappies]”
• “we did have two families pull their children from our
care”
• “three families said they would withdraw their child.[if
the male was employed].”
Volunteer interests, skills, tasks or roles
Interest, skill task or role
Property maintenance
Teaching: music, languages, talks and
demonstrating arts and crafts
Quiet play interaction:
reading stories,
fantasy play, assisting children
Committee, elder
Secretarial, treasurer/General support
Trips
Rough and tumble play/Cooking/Animal Care
Male role model/Maori expertise/Library/
% of
services
57%
43%
33%
27%
17%
10%
7%
What makes male carers feel comfortable?
theme identified
Community engagement
Events and evenings for men
Focus on gender neutrality
Focus on male needs
Valuing the male presence
Generally welcoming
0%
20%
40%
Percent of sample
60%
How easy or hard is it to involve male carers in your ECE
services and activities compared with female carers?
50%
percent
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
much
easier
a bit
about
a bit
easier the same harder
much
harder
What’s hard
• work and family time constraints “split families”,
mothers coming while Dad is “looking after the
children“;
• {ECE is} ”mother' dominated” - men are shut out by
their partners. One centre “had very little response
[for a men’s evening] - most the men were not even
asked about this evening; their partners had made
the decision that they would not be interested.”.
• discomfort, embarrassment, and shyness of male
carers “feeling embarrassed at the start” because
“they are unsure as to what they can do”,
• worry that “no other dads will be there [as they]
don't want to be the only male amongst all the
females ...[and] look soft.”
Conversations never had with caregivers in
the last six months.
ow the service could work better…
areas of possible engagement…
eneral discussion of child's notes…
Manu/Suzie's strengths, interests…
what Manu/Suzie did today in…
discussion of an incident report
male talk' - sport, work, facts
rt hello, goodbye conversations
0%
20%
40%
60%
Resources aimed at male carers that were rated
as not visible.
a range of reading resources on
children targeted at men e.g.…
notices of events and volunteer
roles of interest to male carers…
pictures of male carers
interacting with children
a range of play areas where men
feel comfortable interacting…
environments which encourage
energetic physical play
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60%
Information in newsletters and other written
communications rated as not visible
surveys of male opinion about
the ECE service
articles written by men
stories about the experiences of
men in the role of carer
promotions for male volunteer
involvement in ECE service
stories designed to appeal to
male interests
pictures of male carers
interacting with children
0%
20%
40%
60%
80% 100%
Ideas for improvement
• 38% made no comment or felt that no change was needed:
“this is not an issue for many Centres. We welcome male
carers equally as female carers.”
• 62% did want to see some changes made. 12% felt unsure as
to how
• 50% had ideas such as : newsletters, posters, books and
readings for engaging and informing male carers, social
events for male engagement, outings (field trips), gatherings,
dads or granddads morning tea or sharing their skills with
children, or working on a project with the children e.g. a
building project or the garden.
• 12% said the survey had motivated them to look what they
could do: “Just doing the survey has given me some ideas
about surveying our male Playcentre members to see if we
could put a male perspective into our newsletter. Also, do
they need some information on male roles in the
Playcentre?”
Male volunteers are male carers – so what
correlates with male volunteers?
total volunteers
male recruitment difficulty
pictures of male carers interacting with
children
community engagement
notices of events and volunteer roles
of interest to male carers on notice
boards
Ideas of running male carer socials
valuing the male role model
focus gender neutrality
being ECE centre
0.45 p<0.01
0.39 p<0.01
0.34 p<0.05
0.34 p<0.05
0.33 p<0.05
-0.31
-0.39
-0.42
-0.43
p<0.05
p<0.01
p<0.01
p<0.01
Supporting Male Carers in Early
Childhood Education Services
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