Just two days ago, I had my first major mess up. On my most recent home visit, the youth finished much earlier than the guardian. It is our protocol, once the youth completes the measures, to give her the cash incentive. I was working with youth, and gave her the envelope and had her sign the receipt acknowledging she received the money. Yet, when I was packing up our bag to go after guardian had finished, I also packed up the envelope of cash that had been left on the table.
About 40 minutes into our train ride home, we received a text from the youth telling us that we had taken the money even though she had signed the receipt. I felt terrible. It was already 7:30pm and the other data collector and I had to go all the back to her apartment to give her the money and we didn’t get back home until 9:30pm, and hour and a half later than expected. Even though it was inconvenient for me, it was my mistake, and thus my responsibility to fix it. I just didn’t want the youth to feel like we were taking advantage of her by not giving her the money she signed for. I also, of course, felt terrible that I had to drag the other data collector along with me. She was understanding though, and we’re closer now because of it.
Throughout the course of my position as a data collector, I have become more aware of my identity as a woman. This is because I am working on an all female research team. Both the leadership team and the other research assistants are all women. Yet, this is not be accident. Due to the nature of our research project, it is very beneficial for the data collectors to be female. This is because the main focus of the research study is on the unique expereince of young girls in the juvenile justice system. With that, many of the questions we are asking them are gender specific. For example, we ask them about the experience with sexual harassment and what their views of the role of men in society are.
Most of the new things that I have learned that have piqued my interest in the past few weeks have been about the criminal justice system and its psychological effects on women, and especially young girls. There are a tons of movies, documentaries, and books out there trying to depict girl’s experience with the juvenile justice system, but my eyes have been opened so much more in hearing about these experiences from young girls who experienced this first hand.
In being surrounded by a team of all women researchers, I have also become even more interested in the Psychology of women and the mental health disparities among young girls and mothers. This summer experience along with the research that I am involved in at U of M have also solidified my research interests in parent-child relationships and how mental health consequences are so easily transmitted from parent to child, most of the time unknowingly.
In the future, I hope to continue to work with parents and their children, especially daughters, from low-income communities in supporting them in their journey towards self-reflection, healing, and resilience.