Male childcarers ‘may pose a risk’ says government minister

News|July 17th 2016

Former Conservative leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom suggested in recently published comments that male childcarers could be paedophiles.

Speaking to The Times during her abortive leadership bid last week, the MP for South Northamptonshire discussed the problems faced by working parents in need of childcare.

Leadsom, who was appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs after abandoning her leadership bid, told the paper that most parents would not hire men as nannies.

She declared:

“Now you can call that sexist, I call that cautious and very sensible when you look at the stats. Your odds are stacked against you if you employ a man. We know paedophiles are attracted to working with children. I’m sorry but they’re the facts.”

The newly published comments went down badly with childcare organisations. Tricia Pritchard of nursery union Voice described them as “sexist”.

“Children need male as well as female role models. Both men and women are capable of providing excellent childcare, whether as nannies or in nurseries. There aren’t enough men in childcare, and Mrs Leadsom’s remarks have the potential both to damage the reputation of male childcare professionals already in the workforce and deter men considering childcare as a career.”

She added:

“She should also remember that women can put children at risk too.”

Neil Leitch of educational charity the Pre-school Learning Alliance took a similar line, saying:

“No one should feel that their career choices are limited by their gender, and yet such outdated prejudices are not only insulting to those dedicated male practitioners currently working within the sector, but also act as a barrier to more men entering the early years workforce.”

It was in the interests of the nursery sector to encourage male applicants, he continued, given the imminent introduction of the government-funded scheme providing parents of pre-schoolers with 30 hours of free childcare per week.

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  1. Andrew says:

    She also said that anyone contemplating employing a female nanny should be allowed to ask applicants whether they planned on having children of their own.
    If nannies, why not others, Andrea?
    What a charmer . . .

  2. Yuri says:

    Readers may be interested in two thought provoking comments by Robert Franklin.

    in addition, an associated Telegraph article published last year has been included.

    About the author

    Robert Franklin is a licensed attorney in Texas. He’s a journalist who has published essays and op-eds in a wide variety of online and print media including the Toledo Blade, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times and World Net Daily. He is the Former Executive Editor, of the Houston Law Review where his legal writing has appeared. He is a ‘featured columnist’ and a member of the National Parents Organization, a national non-profit organization. Robert has published poetry in several journals including the Concho River Review and an anthology of Texas poets.

    Theresa May, Fire Andrea Leadsom

    Written by Robert Franklin

    16 July 2016

    The woman who almost became the Prime Minister of the Great Britain believes that men should not serve in jobs that require caring for children (Huffington Post, 7/15/16). Tory Andrea Leadsom delivered herself of that opinion in an interview with the Times last week.

    “As an employer we’re not, let’s face it, most of us don’t employ men as nannies, most of us don’t,” she told the paper. “Now you can call that sexist, I call that cautious and very sensible when you look at the stats.

    “Your odds are stacked against you if you employ a man. We know paedophiles are attracted to working with children. I’m sorry but they’re the facts.”

    Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party hit the nail on the head with his response.

    “These remarks are stupid, ignorant and not ones any minister should be making. Over the last day Theresa May has shown she is willing to relieve ministers of their duties and she must do so again now,” he said.

    “It is inconceivable that somebody who holds such offensive, ignorant views should be sat around the
    cabinet table.”

    He’s right. Prime Minister May should sack Leadsom without delay. She has no business serving in any governmental job. The recent Brexit vote demonstrated that a majority of British voters are fed up with the status quo. That means those who wield political power are faced with the difficult job of winning back the trust of the people they supposedly serve. Leadsom’s astonishingly ignorant and virulently sexist remarks only make that job harder.

    Leadsom is wrong in so many ways it’s hard to keep count.

    First, it’s just not sensible to say in effect “Some men are pedophiles; therefore no men should be employed to care for children.” That’s not logical. Guess what. Some women are pedophiles too and British researchers think their incidence is surprisingly high.

    Has Leadsom even read this article the Telegraph published barely nine months ago (Telegraph, 9/30/15)? It describes the conviction and sentencing of Marie Black on 23 counts of child sexual abuse that the presiding judge called “utterly depraved” and “the most harrowing case” he’d ever seen. If she had, she’d have learned that professionals who study the matter conclude that female pedophilia is much more common than most people think.

    Forensic psychologist Nina Burrowes says the gender of female abusers often accounts for some of our shock: “I do generally believe [women sexually abusing children] happens less often than men, but it happens a lot more often than you realise. I suspect it’s much more underreported.”

    She suggests that society has not been willing to learn more about female paedophilia (where adults are sexually attracted to children) and female child sex abuse (where they either act on those impulses and sexually abuse children, or do it for different reasons).

    “We find it abhorrent because it challenges our ideas of women and motherhood,” she explains. “We also find it frightening because we like to live with the idea that men are dangerous and women are safe, so when you see children to a male stranger in the park it’s dangerous but if they’re talking to a woman it isn’t.

    In other words, attitudes like those expressed by Leadsom are precisely what allow female abusers to do their dirty work. As long as women aren’t subject to reasonable scrutiny, those few who abuse kids are enabled to do so with relative impunity. Leadsom, therefore, is contributing to the very problem she supposedly abhors.

    How many men are pedophiles? No one knows for certain, but it’s an astonishingly tiny percentage of the total. Canadian clinical and forensic psychologist Dr. Michael Seto puts the number at “probably much lower than 1%.” But that number reflects men who’d had sexual thoughts about underage kids. The number who act on those thoughts is surely vastly smaller. Sexual behavior between adults and children is one of the human race’s basic taboos a fact made clear by our laws prohibiting it. Unsurprisingly, few adults violate the taboo.

    Therefore, Leadsom’s assertion is what, in other contexts, is called ‘profiling.’ When the police stop and harass African-American males, just because they’re African-American males, they’re roundly criticized – and rightly so – for racial profiling. Yes, African-American males are more likely than other groups to commit crime, but still only a small percentage of them do. So the mere statistical fact gives the police no right to stop an African-American male without some additional form of probable cause to believe he may have committed an offense.

    The same is true of Leadsom. That some men do sexually abuse children provides no reason to conclude that any individual man may commit that crime. The same holds true for the smaller population of male teachers, daycare workers, nannies, etc. It may be true that pedophiles are drawn to those occupations, but still, only tiny percentages of men doing those jobs abuse children.

    And, speaking of abuse, let’s not forget that women make up the large majority of child abusers. When it comes to physical abuse and neglect, women out-abuse men by a wide margin. In the U.S. there are about two female child abusers for every one male. That data come from the Administration for Children and Families that annually collects statistics on child abuse and neglect from the 50 state child protective agencies.

    Leadsom should be made to answer whether women too should be prohibited from caring for children. After all, they’re much more likely than men to abuse children, so again, according to her “logic,” the obvious conclusion must be drawn.

    But of course it shouldn’t be. The overwhelming majority of men and women who care for children do so scrupulously and well. Leadsom’s remarks are hypocritical, misandric, illogical and factually incorrect.

    If they were only that, we could pass them off as the merely the babbling of a single sexist person. Unfortunately, they’re much worse.

    That’s because Leadsom’s claims encourage the larger culture to do exactly what she’s promoting – the further marginalization of men in children’s lives. It’s been said too many times to repeat that children in Western cultures can now live well into their teens without having any meaningful contact with an adult male. Fatherlessness is rampant due in large part to the actions of family courts that routinely consign fathers to the role of visitor to their children. Does Leadsom even know that a whopping one-third of all British children have no contact with their fathers? Or does she consider that to be a good thing?

    It’s not. The lack of men and fathers in children’s lives is a crisis. The catastrophic decline in male achievement in school, at work, in families and elsewhere is mute testimony to the absence of fathers in children’s lives. No society long survives the breakdown of families and yet our culture is hard at work doing exactly that. Children need men in their lives, particularly fathers. Leadsom’s baseless attack on men is all of a piece with society’s assumption that fathers are disposable refuse.

    The truth is that we need more men in caregiving roles, not fewer. Although a poor substitute for a father, a good male daycare or primary school teacher can offer a child – boy or girl – a much-needed male role model with whom to identify, learn from, emulate and, with luck, be mentored by.

    Leadsom’s virulent misandry exacerbates already-existing societal dysfunction. Here’s a piece I did in 2013 about men in the U.K. refusing to work in daycare because they’re afraid of false allegations of child sexual abuse. Another piece I did earlier cited a poll of male Canadian primary school teachers, 13% of whom had been the victims of those false allegations.

    Andrea Leadsom has been appointed the Environment Secretary for the new May government. She should be removed immediately. Her avid promotion of discrimination against men is aimed squarely at making worse a societal problem that threatens the very fabric of British society. Such disgraceful words should not be allowed to stand. Theresa May must contradict them by firing Leadsom. In so doing, she’ll at long last be saying that British society will never be fixed as long as ignorance and misandry reign.

    ‘Child Abuser’ Label Keeps Men from Teaching, Childcare Occupations

    by Robert Franklin

    January 9th, 2013

    It’s no secret that men, particularly fathers, are being marginalized in the lives of children. One of the main culprits in that crime against society is, of course, the family court system that finds ever more inventive ways of separating children from their fathers. But there are others. One is the dramatic increase in non-marital child bearing that’s occurred in the past 40 years. Back in the 1960s, children born to unmarried women numbered about 6-8% of the total. Now it’s about 42%. Those mothers are usually able to include the fathers in family life or exclude them as they desire. Should a dad have the money and the chutzpah to go to court to assert his rights, he’ll find she can easily thwart him in any number of ways, the quickest and most effective of which is a claim of physical or sexual abuse. He can deny it till he’s blue in the face, but it likely won’t get him any more than a day a week with his child and even that may be strictly supervised.

    All this we know well. But there’s yet another way in which men, whether fathers or not, can be shoved out of children’s lives – early childcare and teaching. Few seriously doubt the need of children for men in their lives, but, as has been often noted, a child can go from birth all the way through secondary school and never get to know a man. Their mother of course is a woman, her friends may be mostly women, the child’s daycare is staffed exclusively by women, elementary school teachers are almost exclusively women. It’s not until middle school that male teachers come into the picture at all and then only rarely, with high school being only slightly better. By then, the child may come to see adult men as alien beings whose ways of acting and speaking are strange and inscrutable.

    Why the almost complete absence of men in pre- and primary schools? For one thing, as a Canadian study a couple of years ago showed, some 13% of men who do brave the slings and arrows of teaching elementary school had experienced false allegations of physical or sexual abuse of the children in their classes. That would be enough to scare off the most determined of men, but those false claims turn out to not be the only reason for male absence in the teaching profession, although it’s a big one. This article, by June O’Sullivan of the London Early Years Foundation explains (Telegraph, 11/22/12). Simply put, it’s not just false allegations of abuse, it’s also the societal belief that men who wish to work with children must be pedophiles, that keeps men away.

    Men are being put off entering the profession for fear of being labelled as abusers or paedophiles, according to new research by the London Early Years Foundation.

    We found that 60 per cent of nursery workers felt the main reason for the low numbers of men in the sector was because, socially, men were not encouraged to join the profession, and 51 per cent thought that it was because of society’s attitude to men in childcare.

    Currently, men are almost invisible in the field of early childhood, making up just two per cent of those working in day care and childminding in England.

    The London Early Years Foundation is England’s largest provider of childcare and schooling to pre-school aged children. It also conducts some research into the matter of men in childcare professions and attempts to encourage their participation.

    Why should men work with children?

    There are huge benefits from having men in nurseries. These include providing male role models for both boys and girls, eradicating gender stereotypes and helping fathers engage with their children.

    At the London Early Years Foundation, we have been supporting the notion of men in childcare for years. At one point, we had a team of four men and one woman running one of our nurseries. We have actively encouraged the recruitment of men in childcare and men make up eight per cent of our workforce.

    We have learned how to prove to parents that men want to work in childcare because they are interested in child development and education, like children and enjoy the team spirit of working in a nursery.

    We have had to deal with the anxieties of fathers about men looking after their daughters – especially parents from more macho cultures. We have overcome all those barriers and learned a great deal from our male staff about the support they need from colleagues, but also from management to feel protected when or if they face unpleasant comments or allegations, or issues such as isolation or feeling like a trophy staff member.

    The research (what there is of it) tends to favour having men in the nurseries. Our own research found that 75 per cent of nursery staff believe it is important for men to be seen as nurturing and sensitive role models, and 66 per cent felt they could change society’s attitudes towards men working with children.

    The negative perceptions that mothers and fathers are suspicious of men caring for children are also wrong. Previous Ipsos/Mori research has found that the British public is broadly in favour of men working within the childcare profession, with 77 per cent in favour and just 12 per cent against.

    Doubtless, cultural stereotypes play a part in discouraging men’s involvement in early childcare jobs. There are next to none doing that work and so next to no children see men in that role and therefore few of them consider it as a career choice. But men run risks women don’t when seeking or performing those jobs, and that too tends to channel men away from caring for children as an occupation. The simple fact is that, despite women committing far more child abuse and neglect than do men, it’s men, not women, at whom people look askance when they’re around children. Remember O’Sullivan’s words about male childcare workers needing “to feel protected when or if they face unpleasant comments or allegations…”

    There was a time, not so very long ago, that men weren’t portrayed in popular culture as dangerous to children or ineffectual at dealing with them. Depictions of fathers and male teachers tended to show them as strong, caring and even wise at times, but no more. Along with no-fault divorce, non-marital childbearing, single motherhood and other unhealthy trends, over a generation of Americans have now been steeped in the lore of the dangerous, incompetent and/or uncaring father. That’s led to the too-easy belief that allegations of abuse leveled against fathers must be true and, as night follows day, the easy issuance of restraining orders and the like.

    Until we come to our senses and see men for who they are, i.e. usually caring, loving protectors of children, our society and particularly our children will continue to pay the steepest of prices.

    Thanks to the Early Years Foundation for doing its part to right this terrible wrong.

    Female paedophiles: Why women sexually abuse children

    By Radhika Sanghani

    The Telegraph

    30 September 2015

    As a woman is jailed for her part in running a ‘depraved’ child sex abuse ring, Radhika Sanghani speaks to experts about what motivates female abusers

    Black was jailed along with two men who were also part of the sex abuse ring: Michael Rogers, 46, and Jason Adams, 44, as well as Carol Stadler, 59, who was found guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm.

    But while the men were respectively found guilty of 14 and 13 counts, including rape, (Stadler was clearled of nine other charges bar the assault), Black was found guilty of 23 offences.

    It’s why she is now being labelled as the ‘mistress’ of the gang.

    This has shocked many. Sadly paedophilia and sex abuse rings are rarely out of the headlines, but a female ringleader who has sexually abused children is more unusual.

    We find female sex offenders abhorrent

    Forensic psychologist Nina Burrowes says the gender of female abusers often accounts for some of our shock: “I do generally believe [women sexually abusing children] happens less often than men, but it happens a lot more often than you realise. I suspect it’s much more underreported.”

    She suggests that society has not been willing to learn more about female paedophilia (where adults are sexually attracted to children) and female child sex abuse (where they either act on those impulses and sexually abuse children, or do it for different reasons).

    “We find it abhorrent because it challenges our ideas of women and motherhood,” she explains. “We also find it frightening because we like to live with the idea that men are dangerous and women are safe, so when you see children to a male stranger in the park it’s dangerous but if they’re talking to a woman it isn’t.

    “Female sex offenders challenge those notions, which is why a lot of people struggle to believe these things.”

    Yet women are paedophiles and child sex abusers. Franca Cortoni, professor of criminology at the University of Montreal, has written extensively on female sex offenders and tells me that though there is an overlap in the way male and female child abusers think, there can be specific motivations for women to offend.

    “We do know there are women who are motivated by sexual interest in children but they are only a tiny proportion of female sex offenders,” she explains. “Most women are motivated by an intimacy need. They want to feel close to someone.”

    Some of those women will choose an adolescent victim – such as recent cases of teachers having sex with teenage boys and grooming them. “These women are more into the idea of a relationship,” explains Cortoni. “They just choose an adolescent instead of an adult partner because they’re less threatening, and they can be in charge.”

    Women offending with male partners

    But when it comes to women who chooses a prepubescent child as their victim, she says: “I think they have a different type of need. It’s no longer that relationship need. They want to feel close to someone who can’t reciprocate in that context. They want to feel totally in charge.”

    Another key difference between male and female sex offenders is that a third of women do it alongside someone else – typically a male partner.

    This is a common feature in the most high-profile cases of female offenders, such as Rosemary West, who helped her husband Fred to rape, torture and murder children and women, and Myra Hindley, who murdered and sexually assaulted five children alongside Ian Brady.

    It’s also a crucial part in the Black case, where her two former partners were part of the sex abuse ring.

    Cortoni says: “There’s definitely a very tiny indication that for some of these women, it’s because they’ve been coerced. That doesn’t mean physical violence. It could be very much emotional or psychological. They’re akin to women who are victims of domestic violence.”

    This was part of Black’s defence from her lawyers, who said she had suffered domestic violence at the hands of Adams and that he “was a very manipulative” man who exploited her. But barristers representing Adams and Rogers rejected this notion saying: “She is the common denominator between all the offences.”

    Male coercion of female abusers

    But there have been cases where this coercion is clearer. Paedophile and former Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins was jailed in 2013 for child sex offences including the attempted rape of a baby. But as well as committing the crimes himself, he also encouraged a female fan to abuse her child during a webcam chat, as well as enticing another to join him on his paedophilic mission.

    The judge sentencing him at the time, Mr Justice Royce, said: “You had many fawning fans. That gave you power. You knew you could use that power to induce young female fans to help satisfy your insatiable lust and take part in the sexual abuse of their own children.”

    Cortoni explains more about these kinds of female sex offenders: “They’ll do whatever he says in that context because they lose who they are. Some believe it will bring them closer to their partner. Often it’s to do with their own background and whatever happened when they were raised.

    “People think they’re mentally ill but they’re not always. I prefer to say they’re predominantly dysfunctional.”

    Serial sex offenders

    While some of the most high-profile cases of female sex offenders show them committing repeated crimes against children, such as Black and West, it isn’t a typical pattern. Instead Cortoni explains that serial female child abusers are rare:

    “The make-up of women is different to men. I think in terms of sexuality and preferences, women as a group tend to require more affiliation and closeness with their sexual partner. When serial sexual offending occurs, it’s normally from deviant sexual arousal.

    “They [typically men] are either strongly attracted to children and want more variety or they’re aroused by violence, like serial rapists. Women’s sexual patterns don’t work quite the same way.”

    The only worry is that this could change. Tony Beech, criminological psychology professor at the University of Birmingham says that women don’t commit as many crimes as men but they might, very gradually, start catching up.

    “Women seem to be more like men these days,” he explains, referencing a recent rise in drinking and violence. That wouldn’t necessarily affect their chances of becoming paedophiles, which is based on sexual attraction to children, but it could mean an increase in women being sexually violent towards children.

    It’s why, as Burrowes says, society needs to start recognising and believing that women can be child sex abusers too: “It’s something we really need to open our eyes and ears to.”

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