Does HWC have any resources supporting or not supporting the use of HWC by the opposite sex? We are exploring the option of a mixed group home/residential facility and questions (many questions) have come up with regards to staff restraining clients of the opposite sex.
In order of priority:
1) Act for the client’s physical safety first and foremost. Staff has a duty to protect a client’s physical safety without regard for gender or anything else.
2) Make whatever adjustments that are indicated to protect the client’s sense of emotional safety and well being. HWC’s Module 7 includes how to transition another staff person to relieve you in a Neutral Position PRT or any PRT standing or seated, for that matter to account for the client’s emotional safety. One of the five situations where a transition to another staff might be advisable is to accommodate any gender issues extant.
With respect to the PRT person, the issue is not necessarily to use someone who is the same sex of the child so much as it is the correct sex for a particular child. Some girls have issues with men and do better with women. Some girls have issues with woman and do better with men and, of course, there are some boys who do better with one gender or the other. Whenever it is safe and feasible to do so, give consideration to the gender issues/wishes of the child and make whatever adjustments you can to help the child feel more comfortable and accessible. Deal with whatever gender or other issues that may have occurred when you debrief the child post crisis.
When it comes to training, watch staff carefully to see if they are less comfortable restraining one gender or the other. Most men will readily acknowledge that they do not feel comfortable restraining women and, especially, adolescent girls. This is by far the biggest problem and the one with the most safety implications in mixed populations. I would give them as many training repetitions as needed to help them get over it. Transgender, gay and lesbian kids can present problems for some people, obviously. They may need help making the necessary emotional compensations in order to become effective as treating personnel, much less someone who may need to perform an occasional restraint.
If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call me at (845) 255-4031.