Harmful or Abusive Childcare Situations
It goes without saying that if you suspected that a potential childcare provider was a child abuser, you would not ever have allowed that person to care for your child. So how would you know if your child was a victim of abuse or neglect at the hands of a caregiver? It is important to recognize warning signs of neglect or abuse, in case any of them are manifesting themselves in your child. Of course, if your child is willing and able to tell you about any incidents that have occurred in the childcare setting, that will be the best evidence of an abusive or neglectful situation. Sometimes, however, children either are too young to comprehend or explain what has happened to them, or may actually have been intimidated by an abuser into silence. In these cases, it is up to the parents to investigate the possibility of mistreatment by the childcare provider.
Although any child abuse indicators may have another, perfectly innocuous explanation, be alert if any of the following occur or appear.
- The caregiver attempts to deter you from visiting whenever you wish.
- Your child, even after having time for adjustment to the childcare setting, is nervous, unhappy, or frightened when it comes time to leave for day care (or, if you use in-home care, when the caregiver arrives at your home).
- The caregiver does not greet your child in a warm or friendly manner (on a regular basis, that isanyone can have an off day).
- The caregiver becomes defensive if you question her or raise issues to her about your child's care.
- The caregiver is hesitant to give you a recap of your child's activities during the day.
- Unexplained injuries appear on your child, especially if they occur more than once or if they appear near the buttocks or genital area.
- Your child is suddenly exhibiting changes in behavior or mood swings.
- Your child is acting out in inappropriate ways, such as exhibiting aggression where he or she never did before.
- Your child makes inappropriate statements, such as expressing a desire to kill people or talking about sexual topics or genitalia in an age-inappropriate manner.
- Your child is suddenly complaining of physical ailments.
- Your child has begun wetting the bed or having accidents during the day.
- Your child has begun showing fear during routine activities, such as taking a bath or undressing at bedtime.
- Your child is dirty or has a full diaper when you come to pick him up (again, this is bound to happen once in a whileit becomes a problem when it happens on a regular basis).
If your child has suffered an injury in day care that is not readily explainable, or if repeat injuries have occurred, you should take your child to his pediatrician for a thorough examination. The physician is trained to recognize old injuries, and she may pick up on signs of additional injury that you have not noticed.
Addressing Abuse or Neglect
If you believe you have an abuse or neglect situation on your hands, whether it involves your own child or another child in the facility, you should report the incident immediately to the proper authorities. There are child abuse hotline numbers for each state. If the abuse concerns someone else's child, you will want to speak with those parents as soon as you possibly can, so they can take whatever action they see fit, including finding another childcare provider.
As soon as possible after compiling the evidence of abuse, document the incident to the best of your ability. Do not add commentary or fill in facts that you have not seen or heard yourself. Write down what is within your own personal knowledge. If you are basing your conclusion of abuse on something that somebody else told you, whether it was your child or another parent, have them make notes, if possible. Obviously, you will have to do the writing for a very young child, and sometimes another parent will decline to get involved. In those cases, note that you are reporting information that you have received on a secondhand basis.
Once you have made a report to the appropriate state agency, make a follow-up call to the agency after several days to be sure that someone is working on the case. Document each contact you have with the agency, including dates of calls and names of agency staff to whom you have spoken. Keep this information in your records, because you may need to refer to it at a later date, particularly if you decide to seek legal recourse against the childcare provider.
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Copyright © 2005 by Linda H. Connell. Excerpted from The Childcare Answer Book with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
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