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Confidentiality for Leaders

Margaret Robinson
Dublin OH USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 2, April-May 2005, p. 33.

Confidentiality and privacy are terms we hear a great deal about in the news these days. There are constant reminders of the importance of confidentiality and privacy in mailings from financial institutions and in forms to sign at health care providers' offices. They seem so constant that we can lose sight of how important confidentiality is. And yet, if you are the victim of lost privacy or lost trust, it is no trivial matter.

As Leaders, we have promised to keep personal information confidential when talking to others. THE LEADER'S HANDBOOK states that it's necessary to keep confidentiality in mind when:

  • Consulting with another Leader about a helping situation.
  • Discussing examples of questions mothers ask and ways Leaders respond with a Leader Applicant.
  • Showing a Leader Applicant how to keep a telephone log.
  • Describing a helping situation in a workshop, at a Chapter Meeting, or in an article for a Leader publication.
  • Talking about others' breastfeeding experiences at Series Meetings.

Let's look at a few situations where confidentiality is critical.

Mother-to-Mother

La Leche League serves a unique role in helping mothers reach their breastfeeding goals. It should be understood that confidentiality is required of Leaders when we provide support face-to-face, during a helping call, or through emails.

Mothers who contact LLL often do so with a question or issue with which they need assistance. It would be damaging to La Leche League should a mother hear her problem mentioned at a Series Meeting, Enrichment Meeting, or elsewhere without having her privacy respected. As the Leader's Handbook states, "When mothers are reassured by a Leader's actions that helping calls and conversations are kept confidential, they can feel confident recommending LLL to others."

Leaders and Leader Applicants

Leaders share a special relationship with Leader Applicants. Confidentiality is expected and essential to this relationship.

When a Leader discusses the topic of helping mothers, it is natural to share actual situations with the Applicant so she can have an authentic view of leadership. However, it is imperative that the Leader not share personal information about a mother. Leaders often share photocopies of past phone logs with Leader Applicants. The names and identifying information about each caller should be blackened out before sharing these copies.

Likewise, the correspondence between an Associate/Coordinator of Leader Accreditation (A/CLA) and the Leader Applicant, as well as the correspondence between an A/CLA and the sponsoring Leader, is kept confidential. If a Leader Applicant shares information with the A/CLA, such as being pregnant, or a concern about the Group, the A/CLA is obligated to keep that information to herself. The Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) resource guidelines mandate that, "We need permission to relate specific information from one to another."

Leaders may seek the guidance of other Leaders when working with a Leader Applicant. While it may be natural to let down the veil of confidentiality concerning a Leader Applicant when speaking with another Leader, it is best to avoid the temptation. Comments about a Leader Applicant are best shared with a co-Leader also working directly with you and the Leader Applicant or with a representative of the LAD to ensure confidentiality is maintained.

Leader-to-Leader

Many times, a Leader may turn to other Leaders for support in handling a mother's concerns. Some newly accredited Leaders may choose to review their first encounters with a more experienced Leader, while any Leader may enhance her knowledge by consulting with her co-Leader(s.) This can empower a Leader and help her build her confidence. The Leader needs to remember to keep the mother's personal information to herself, and discuss only the relevant information shared.

At LLL Series Meetings a topic, such as cesarean birth, cosleeping, or weaning, may be mentioned. As Leaders, our responsibility is to provide mothers with information regarding the topic. A Leader may choose to share her own experience relating to the topic when appropriate. A Leader should not share another Leader's personal choice with the Group unless this has been agreed on ahead of time. A Leader's meeting might be a good time to have a conversation about this and to understand those topics that co-Leaders may feel uncomfortable sharing with mothers at meetings.

Confidentiality Means Respect

We would do others and ourselves an extreme disservice by not maintaining confidentiality. We can easily ask a mother for her permission to discuss her situation with others. When I know I will be calling a Professional Liaison Leader, for example, I always ask the mother for her permission to discuss the issue with another Leader.

Every mother who contacts LLL for help becomes an advertisement for the organization. It is our sincere hope that these mothers continue to come to LLL Meetings and speak highly of their experience. Likewise, as a Leader Applicant becomes more involved with La Leche League, we sincerely hope she is encouraged by the behavior of the Leaders with whom she comes in contact. By treating others with respect and valuing their privacy, we are reflecting a positive and welcoming atmosphere for all.

Margaret Robinson leads with two Groups, LLL of Dublin and LLL of Crosswoods in Ohio, USA. She has been a Leader for three years and recently began working as an Associate Coordinator of Leader Accreditation for Ohio, USA. Margaret lives with her husband and three children, ages 9, 7, and 4, in Dublin, Ohio, USA. Send your ideas and articles for "Managing the Group" to Managing Editor Carole Wrede at EditorLV at llli.org (email) or Route 1 Box 110, Greeley, Nebraska, 68842.

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