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When and How to Report Daycare Abuse or Neglect

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When and How to Report Daycare Abuse or Neglect

Written by™


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If your child or the child of a loved one attends daycare, it’s important to know their health, safety, development, and emotional well-being are cared for with as much love and compassion as you would display in the time you spend with them. There are a variety of common warning signs which could indicate daycare abuse or neglect, and clearly defined steps you can take to report suspected daycare abuse resulting in an investigation of the facility and its workers.

It’s important to pay close attention to a child’s behavior upon returning from daycare and immediately file a report and consider legal action if you suspect abuse or neglect. Since children who attend daycare tend to be younger with fewer communication skills, it could be difficult for them to tell you about stressful situations they are experiencing in their childcare facility.

Here are some common warnings signs that could be indicative of daycare abuse:

  • Changes in behavior or extreme and sudden changes in mood
  • An uncommon knowledge of or interest in sexual matters
  • Play-acting aggressive or sexual scenarios they should not have knowledge of
  • Exhibiting fear or anxiety toward daycare workers
  • Attempts to run away from the daycare center
  • Sudden poor memory
  • Self-derogatory speech (i.e. “I’m stupid”, “I’m useless”, etc.)
  • Anxiety-driven eagerness to please
  • A dazed look or lack of focus
  • Flinching at sudden movements
  • Unexplained bruises, red marks, cuts, etc.
  • Sudden aggressive or rude behavior
  • Reverting to infantile behavior
  • Nightmares or night terrors
  • Urinary tract infections or soreness around genitals
  • Discomfort sitting or walking
  • Reticence to be left at the daycare center
  • Extreme thirst, hunger, or need to use the restroom upon pick-up
  • Untreated injuries
  • Untreated diaper rashes
  • Defensive or uncooperative daycare workers
  • Parental instinct (i.e. feeling that something isn’t as it should be)

If you suspect daycare abuse, there are a series of essential steps you must take to report that abuse and begin an investigation into a daycare center and its workers. These steps may vary slightly from state to state, so it’s a good idea to check online to locate your state’s child safety or child services office and learn about your state’s guidelines and how to file a report. If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

Here are some tips for reporting daycare abuse:

  • Call your state’s abuse hotline if the situation is urgent; otherwise, you may also use your state’s abuse hotline website, which could take up to 48 hours for an online report to be processed depending on the volume of reports.
  • You can find a list of the different states’ abuse hotlines and reporting websites here.
  • If someone fails to report their suspicions of daycare abuse, they can be held liable for a misdemeanor or felony. It should also be noted that when a person reports abuse in good faith, they are immune from civil or criminal liability regardless of the results of the investigation.
  • When filing a suspected abuse report with your state’s protective services department, you will be asked to answer a series of questions and should do so as thoroughly and accurately as possible. This should include providing the name of the daycare center and any employees you suspect may be involved.
  • In addition to filing a formal report, you have the opportunity to file a civil claim and pursue compensation for the damage to your child.
  • If you directly witness abuse, or if you fear a child is in immediate danger, call the police immediately and file a report with them as well.

Many people refrain from reporting suspected daycare abuse, fearing their anonymity might be jeopardized or that they might be personally penalized if the investigation doesn’t turn up evidence of abuse. These fears are unnecessary. If a daycare abuse report is made with valid concern, regardless of the outcome, the reporter cannot be penalized.

It is important that you take action if you suspect daycare abuse, as your report could protect not only your own child but countless other children who might have otherwise been subjected to the same treatment. It’s also wise to call a daycare abuse lawyer after reporting the abuse to authorities. An investigation by Child Protective Services or law enforcement could take months to complete, but an experienced lawyer will be able to take quick action to protect your child and pursue the compensation you are eligible for. Seeking legal counsel is another essential step you can take to protect your child and any other children in a daycare center from suffering the same abuse.

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