Yesterday, I received a phone call from work informing me that I would no longer be picking up one of the kids on my van route, and that our other driver would be taking her instead. Her mother had called in and informed my boss that she wasn't comfortable having her daughter picked up by a man.
I can't say I'm surprised. In fact, if anything about the situation surprises me it's that it's taken eight weeks since the start of the school year for someone to make a call like that.
This incident (the first of many, I fear) really helps explain why I was a bit apprehensive about accepting the shift in my work responsibilities. I work at a small nonprofit arts school, and in September I was asked to switch from doing mainly front desk and office work to running our after-school childcare program. It sounds like something that would be right up my alley, right? I love kids, I'm great with kids, kids love me and look up to me, and I have the skill set necessary to provide high-quality care to children and have been doing so most of my life. But I knew, in the back of my mind, that I was born with a penis, and people just don't want people with penises watching their children.
Now you may say that it's nothing personal - that people want to look out for their children, and in that regard it's often much safer to assume the worst than assume the best - and certainly I shouldn't take it personally. But I've seen friends' careers get destroyed by mere rumors and discomfort, and it is more than reasonable to fear the same. Plus, when you have impostor's anxiety, a little call like that can really worry you.
To be fair, a disproportionate percentage of employee-involved daycare facility child abuse cases (whew, say that ten times fast) involve a male employee. But I'd be willing to put down a pretty substantial bet at fairly good odds that if you pulled a random case file out of a list of all reported child abuse cases, the perpetrator would not be a daycare worker. It would be a family member.
Hell, even back in the mid-80s during the male childcare worker witch hunt that spread through the country - back before background checks, and trainings, and bathroom improvements, and mandatory reporting, and all that good preventative stuff - nationwide studies still showed it was much more likely that a family member would abuse a child than a daycare worker. Believe it or not, a third of abuse incidents that took place in daycare settings were also perpetrated by a family member, not an employee.
Oh, and another thing that studies show, is that while abusers are disproportionately male, the proportion isn't that skewed, and your child could still absolutely be abused by a female employee. It might even be easier, seeing as how female employees - and even women who want to enter the field - are treated with less scrutiny.
Bottom line is you have to trust someone. I'm a well-vetted professional who has passed thorough background checks. I would trust me long before uncle so and so.