One mom’s very candid look at screening caregivers
By Cary, Colorado Mom
Screening caregivers. Ugh! It’s the worst. For me, it’s right up there with my annual OBGYN exam, dental cleanings and mammograms…we hate them, but we must go to ensure we are healthy and we aren’t going to get a toothache in the middle of our vacation next month. We go because if modern medicine offers us the chance to prevent something from going wrong with our body, well, then…it’s worth our time and we show up. Screening caregivers for our children offers the same opportunity for prevention… and our children are our most precious treasures, so of course we do it. But it’s hard!
My dream for my community would be that every parent become educated on sex abuse prevention, and we talked about it as openly as what’s for dinner, or what sports our kids are playing or what day the talent show is scheduled. If we were all talking about it, it would be normal. If we were all talking about it, collectively we’d be pretty loud and abusers would hear us. If we were all talking about it, children would be safer and abuse would happen less. It’s that simple. This isn’t one of those worthy causes in the world that needs $2 million fundraiser. Ending sex abuse against children just takes our courage to speak up. So, why aren’t we all talking about it? I catch myself thinking about this too often because I wonder if it will ever get easier or more comfortable.
I’ve attended several of Feather’s Parenting Safe children workshops now, and I remain perplexed about how intimidating it continues to be to have these conversations. It’s not difficult to understand why we should screen them. Feather has given us the words to say, so we know how we should screen them. I completely understand the importance of this prevention practice, but it’s interesting that no matter how many times I ask these questions, regardless of my faith in them, I continue to feel afraid of doing it.
I don’t sweat when I ask a babysitter if he/she has taken a CPR class. I don’t stumble over my words when I ask a daycare facility how they handle discipline or prevent bullying or protect kids from peanut allergies. I don’t almost cry when I ask my son’s teacher if they have a plan in case there is a fire in the building. But for some reason, no matter how many times I ask questions about sex abuse prevention for my children, I start to hyperventilate.
The only difference between the first time and the 20th time is that I now know what to expect, and I guess there is some comfort in that. Before I walk into a screening appointment with a potential caregiver, I sit in my car and I have this conversation with myself, “Ok, you ARE doing this. Your heart is going to start pounding, you’re going to start sweating, your bottom lip is going to quiver and you’re not going to look confident. But you are confident and you ARE doing this! You know this is the right thing to do, so get out of your car and ask the questions young lady! It’s the only way you will have peace of mind, so move it!” And then I picture Feather telling me that I must feel this discomfort, so my kids never have to. I remember her saying that in the workshop, and I carry that voice in my head with me.
Most of the time, caregivers have never heard these screening questions and they are taken off-guard with how to answer. But every once in a while, the person I am screening will say something like, “Thank you for asking these questions,” or “I don’t have a great answer for your questions, but I am so glad you asked and I’ll find out more about that.” In these moments, I no longer feel alone in the room, and that’s what makes all the difference. When we don’t feel alone, we feel less afraid and we speak louder.
Regardless of my fear of screening caregivers, of course I will continue to have these pep rallies with myself in my car, and I will continue to stumble through the screening process for my children because like having a mammogram, I need to know that if I can prevent something terrible from happening to my sweet boys, then of course I’ll show up.
I know I am not alone. I know there are others out there sweating in their cars. So from one terrified mother to another, I want you to know that I feel your pain and you are not alone. I send you big love and support. Please continue to be brave and keep it up! I need your strength to be strong; there is power in numbers, and the energy about prevention education will shift if we all stick together and speak up through our quivering lips.
The next time you’re sitting in your car, trying to rally yourself for one of these screening conversations, think of me sitting right next to you saying, “You’re doing this! You’re not alone! It’s the right thing to do! You’ve got this, you’re not paranoid, so move it!” And maybe someday, if we all stick together, we won't feel alone and it might get easier.