Members of Men in Childcare network at the launch of our DVD- Cork, 2008
The Men in Childcare Network was formally established in 2006 to increase the awareness of the Irish public into our work and to support those men working in our sector. Following a period of consultation and the creation of a 3 year strategic plan setting out our objectives. Since then we have had a further 3 year strategy, attended national and international conferences, held networking events around the country, spoke to media in local, regional and national settings, piloted a men only foundation childcare course and generally tried to do anything which we believed would further our case of making men working in the childcare sector more visible, our work more valued, our issues better understood.
The History: The seed for men in childcare network was initially sown by the Kilkenny County Childcare Committee (KCCC) in spring of 2004. There had been discussion on the issue of diversity in childcare and issue of gender diversity in childcare was highlighted with regard to the gender imbalance in the childcare workforce in Ireland. For example; a large percentage of children in Ireland have little contact with men and some children do not have positive male role models present in their lives. At the same time the Childcare sector in Ireland has the lowest representation of male workers in Europe of less than 1 %. It was considered that children are growing up in a society that is focusing more than ever on equality issues. However, many of the children in Childcare are left in a situation where they have no contact with men between 8 am and 5 pm.
Following inquiries it was discovered that there were very little men employed as childcare workers. The coordinator of KCCC (Gretta Murphy) attended a “Men in Childcare” conference organized by the MiC network in the UK. There she made contact with several organizations, institutions and professionals from around Europe who were actively involved with encouraging and supporting men into childcare. There had been several networks setup around Europe to support male childcare workers and all had been successful. Upon returning the KCCC with support from SEHB (HSE) and Trinity College Dublin set about to organize the first “Men in Childcare” conference which was held in Kilkenny and June 2004. The conference was a huge success and was instrumental in highlighting the issue of men in childcare in Ireland. The conference also brought together men who where actively involved or interested in the childcare sector in Ireland. In October 2004 the KCCC hosted the first meeting of the “Men in Childcare Network” for men in Ireland. The initial meeting was attended by 5 men and we agreed the following aims: 1. To work towards an increased representation of men in the Early Years sector in Ireland with particular emphasis on the benefits of the child. 2. To inform and support men who may be interested in a career in the childcare sector and enable male workers in childcare, including child minders, to support each other in an effort to address the issue of retention. 3. The network also hopes to contribute to an increased valuation of the role men have as carers for children in the Irish society. To keep the issue of men in childcare on the agenda, the network organised a second conference in Dublin in November 2005 with the support Trinity College Dublin, CDCDE, Dublin, Kilkenny, Waterford city /county and Tipperary south county childcare committees. This conference was more oriented toward the issue facing men in childcare in Ireland with several pieces of research having been carried out around Ireland in the previous year since the first year conference. This conference also gave the network the opportunity to make contact with other males interested in childcare. A series of network meeting were called in spring 2006 inviting all males interested in becoming involved in the MiC network. These meetings were made possible with the support of Waterford Institute of Technology and Waterford city/ county & Kilkenny county childcare committees amongst others. The purpose of these facilitated meetings was to help draw up our action plan, aims/ objectives and values; these were drawn up based on the men‟s own hopes, fears and experiences. For this reason the network sets out to be a practical support for men working in childcare and endeavours to meet its member‟s needs. These meetings also served as forums for men to talk and exchange feelings/ ideas from their experience of the childcare sector. The network compiled the first MiC 3 year plan in mid 2006 which set out our direction to 2010. A second plan has since been completed. However the work of increasing the visibility and supporting those men who choose an early childhood career continues
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