The Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has revised and expanded its training to workers in federally-funded refugee resettlement programs to “address the needs of particularly vulnerable groups of children, including youth who may be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.”
Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services (BRYCS) is a project of the USCCB’s Migrant and Refugee Services. According to the bishops’ website, BRYCS “assists service providers from refugee resettlement agencies, mainstream service agencies, such as child welfare and schools, and ethnic community based organizations.”
Catholic World News reported last week that the training is intended “for those who work with youth in the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement/Division of Children’s Services.”
The updated BRYCS Tier One Training Manual, which has been copyrighted by the USCCB and published with the aid of an HHS grant, now states, “It is important to be alert for homophobic remarks among staff. If any are made, discuss in a non-judgmental way how these kinds of remarks may make a young gay resident feel.”
In one manual’s examples for group discussion, the following situation is presented on a slide:
A staff member walks into a room and sees two boys in the same bed. It appears that Pepe has been performing oral sex on Lucas.
What should the staff member do and say?
What information is needed?
The accompanying “Trainer Notes” state:
If this is an all-girls’ residence, change the example to one about two female residents in bed. Allow the staff to discuss the example freely while avoiding condemnation of same sex behaviors. Sexual behavior of any kind is problematic in the residences, regardless of the genders of the participants.
In a slide designed to focus attention on “youth who are especially vulnerable to abuse by peers,” the manual notes that those “who seem in some way different from their peers are likely to be targeted, and that this includes those who appear to be gay or do not act in gender typed ways…”
The manual also directs if a “boy teases another boy, saying that he is gay, standing too close to him, and so forth, it would be a form of sexual harassment.”
In the Tier Two Training Manual, also a joint effort of the USCCB and HHS, a situation is presented in which two male minors are “rubbing each other with their feet on the other’s genital areas.”
For this scenario, the training manual recommends:
After allowing staff to discuss this, you can suggest that the young men should learn not to engage in sexual contact in the residence, and they should develop a stronger sense of sexual boundaries – to keep sexual activities private, even after leaving the residence…
In yet another situation, three young males report that another minor male resident has been exposing himself to them on various occasions.
According to the training manual, staff members are advised as follows:
Presuming these reports are true, why would Telmo engage in these kinds of behaviors? It is possible that he has simply never been taught appropriate sexual boundaries… While Telmo needs to understand that he should not expose himself to others and should keep from touching other residents inappropriately, he should not be shamed or humiliated for his actions. If Telmo continues to engage in these kinds of behaviors he may need to be transferred to a more restrictive setting.
Catholic World News observed that the new BRYCS training manual “makes no reference to moral law or the practice of virtue.”