Protecting Your Child from Abuse in Daycare
During your interview with a prospective day care provider, ask detailed questions about her philosophy of discipline. On your visit, observe how she handles behavior problems, including punishments she uses.
Go to the Source
To see how caregivers are treating their charges, you can volunteer to go on field trips or help out occasionally. But for real day-to-day information, your child is probably your best source.
As soon as they start to talk, kids can tell you what happened at school. If your child isn't very verbal yet, he might enjoy acting out the day's events at day care. For kids, it's a game—like playing house—only this is called playing school. You can play the teacher and he can tell you what to do. This gives you an idea of how comfortable he appears to be with the adults in his day care program.
It's also important to create an open atmosphere in which your child feels he can talk to you about anything without fear of being ridiculed or blamed. Start when he's very young and maintain the dialogue as he grows, so he knows he can trust you to be supportive and open, even if he needs to talk about something he finds embarrassing.
Messages for Your Child
Kids can learn to protect themselves if you give them the tools. Young children can be taught some basic lessons that you can elaborate on as they get older.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) offers these messages for kids:
- You have the right to say NO to anyone who asks you do something painful, embarrassing, or wrong.
- No one should touch you on the parts of the body covered by a bathing suit, nor should you touch anyone else in these private places.
- Don't be tricked if someone says to keep something a secret by threatening you or bribing you.
- Don't remain alone with an adult in an isolated place, such as a bathroom or bedroom, if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
The NCMEC maintains a 24-hour, toll-free hotline that can help parents whose children have been exploited. Call 800-THE LOST (843-5678), or check the Web site at www.missingkids.com.
If You Suspect Abuse
If your child reveals something to you that makes you suspect he's been abused either physically or sexually, try not to over-react in front of him. Just let him know that you're glad he's told you about it. If you're not sure whether abuse has occurred, the NCMEC recommends consulting a doctor, social worker, or law enforcement officer. Don't take your child back to the day care facility until you're convinced it's safe.
If you're pretty certain your child has been harmed, seek medical attention and immediately alert the police and the appropriate social service organization in your community. The NCMEC recommends against dealing directly with the day care provider. Leave that to the authorities. Also, be prepared to provide for professional counseling for your child.
More on: Childhood Safety
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child Safety © 2000 by Miriam Bacher Settle, Ph.D., and Susan Crites Price. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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