Great idea, but … what about confidentiality?

  • July 20, 2015 at 8:23 pm #1432
    Philip Jones

    I applaud PYM’s efforts in giving us ways to communicate with each other about issues that we all work with. I’m finding that I am reluctant to put my questions into writing here, essentially a public space (as I assume nobody is vetting people who sign up for a given board); at least one of the issues we are dealing with is too readily identifiable with an individual. It feels like a violation of that person’s privacy to describe even vaguely the questions I have about dealing with issues.

    Any thoughts on how to get around this? I would value hearing the experience of pastoral care Friends from other meetings, but am not sure this is the right forum.

  • July 24, 2015 at 3:12 pm #1433
    George Schaefer

    Hey, Phil —

    Thank you for raising this important question.

    How pastoral care committee members learn from each other across meetings without breaching confidentiality has been ongoing concern at Pastoral Care Thread Gatherings and other community learning/training gatherings for many years now. It even came up at the Developing A Child Abuse Prevention Policy training in May.

    One way to get around the confidentiality issue is to present the situation being considered in a more abstract way. However, even this approach can be problematic when others read into the “abstract” specific events at meetings and individuals they may be aware of. This leads to gossip and erroneous assumptions.

    The Thread Gatherings have the advantage of getting those present to consent to maintain confidentiality about things discussed. But, publishing on the topic, especially on the net or social media becomes much more problematic.

    Our Quaker process of seeking clarity gives us a vision of transparency and openness. But, how do we do this without betraying trust? Of course, if someone, especially children are at risk the limits of confidentiality and the meeting’s responsibility to protect children from abuse supersedes individual confidentiality.

    But, should Care Committee members inform members of this (the limits of confidentiality) when they come forward to talk to someone about their problems? (BTW, this is one of the questions that came up at the Child Abuse Prevention Policy training in May.)

    I think that the new Quaker Life Council should empower a sprint group to create a PYM document/queries regarding confidentiality within the context of pastoral care at monthly, quarterly and yearly meeting, gatherings and media including written communication and social media.

    What do you think of that idea?

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