Men do not enjoy the same standing in the child-care profession as women, partly due to a general concern about having men be alone with children, said Linda Fellion, coordinator of child-care resources and referrals at the Fort Collins Women’s Center.
In October, Jan Elijah Rogers, a former CSU student, was charged with 12 local counts ranging from unlawful sexual contact to sexual assault on a minor at the University Children’s Center, a CSU-affiliated day care center. Rogers was an employee at the center and the Early Childhood Lab School, a CSU-owned pre-school. No evidence has been found of any wrongdoing at the lab school. Rogers also was indicted on four federal charges of advertising and distributing child pornography.
Because of this incident, child-care facilities might be more hesitant than usual to hire male staff members, Fellion said.
“One of the things I have concerns about this is that this incident will further increase perceptions that it’s not appropriate for men to be caregivers,” she said. “It’s still, in some people’s minds, very suspect for men to be in child care.”
Men might not always be the problem, though, when it comes to child abuse.
According to Young Children magazine, “young females are perpetrators of child abuse more often than males.” The magazine stated that 61.8 percent of perpetrators were female as opposed to 38.2 percent for males, using data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.
Eldon Grimm, who runs a Loveland-based home day care with his wife, has not personally experienced suspicion over his role as a day care provider – only surprise.
“There’s a lot of surprise,” he said. “People are amazed that I’m willing to do it or enjoy doing it.”
About 3 percent of early childhood workforce employees are male, according to Young Children magazine. This data came from the Center for the Child Care Workforce.
With the recent trend of absent fathers and little male contact for many children, some people say it is especially important to have men in children’s lives.
“There are a lot of kids these days that don’t have a consistent male image in their lives,” Grimm said. “The thing that we provide is a more family-like atmosphere.”
Grimm also noted that having men in children’s lives helps to counteract any negative attitudes single mothers may pass on to their children.
“(A single mother) passes to both the boys and the girls the image that there should be problems (with men),” Grimm said. “Even the most conscientious single mother can’t help but send messages that aren’t necessarily positive male images.”
Jody Lilliequist, director of the Hope Infant and Children’s Center, thinks the University Children’s Center did nothing wrong by hiring and maintaining Rogers’ employment. She said that because Rogers had no previous crime record, there was no reason to suspect he would do anything wrong.
“There was nothing anybody could have done,” Lilliequist said. “I think the director over (at the center) probably did everything she could.”
Regardless of whether Rogers should have been hired, Lilliequist believes there are certain measures a child-care agency must take for its and the children’s protection.
“I try to make sure that when I have a male working for me, that he doesn’t get left alone with the kids, for his own protection,” said Lilliequist, who said she does the same with female employees. “We have to be so careful.”
However, some parents might misread a male employee’s intent with children, Fellion said. Men tend to be more active and physical when interacting with children, which can be a good thing because children need close contact and affection, she said.
“It’s pretty common to observe that men play differently with children,” Fellion said. “I just think there’s a potential for those normal appropriate interactions with children being misinterpreted by parents if there isn’t good communication between the parents and providers. We’ve had some parents share with us that they won’t enroll their children in a family child-care home if there’s a man present during the day.”