When parents entrust daycare facilities with their child’s care, they expect their child to be safe and spend time in a nurturing environment. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case; no matter how professional a facility might be, abuse can still happen when parents aren’t there to watch. When a daycare and its employees abuse a child, justice should be sought against them.  However, it may not always be so easy to tell if your child is being abused. That’s why it’s so important to understand and keep an eye out for potential daycare abuse and neglect indicators.

Q: What is legally considered child abuse?

A: Abuse can come in many forms, from physical to sexual to emotional. And it’s possible for your child to suffer any one of them at their daycare by the caregivers on staff. Laws on what is considered child abuse vary from state to state, but the following types of behavior and actions are generally considered abusive:

  • Striking a child with an object, hand, foot, or another body part with the intention to harm.
  • Using excessive physical restraint, force, or isolation as a means of controlling a child or as punishing behavior.
  • Leaving a child under a certain age range unsupervised or with a person incapable of appropriately supervising them.
  • Engaging in sexual contact or activity of any kind with an underaged child.
  • Willingly not meeting a child’s basic needs for food, water, shelter, or a clean and safe environment.
  • Neglecting a child’s injuries or refusing to seek essential medical treatment for them after suffering an injury.
  • Taking any other intentional action that poses a threat to a child’s physical well-being or results in significant physical or emotional harm.

Q: Is neglecting a child the same as child abuse?

A: Neglect is a form of abuse that can be just as damaging to a child as what some might consider more “direct” forms of physical abuse, like striking, shaking, or restraining a child. Leaving children unsupervised, isolating them for excessive periods of time, failing to meet their basic physical as well as emotional needs, and creating an otherwise unsafe environment for them can all be considered forms of child neglect that still constitute child abuse.

Q: What kind of abuse might my child be experiencing, specifically at daycare?

A: Abuse can come in many forms, but in a daycare facility setting, abuse could be happening by way of improper supervision leading to neglectful injury, an unsafe or hazardous environment causing harm, forcible physical touches such as grabbing, groping, shoving, smothering, force-feeding, or restraining leading to injury, or isolation, emotional abuse, or willful neglect causing mental harm.

Q: How does daycare abuse or neglect happen?

A: Daycare abuse most often happens for two reasons:

  • the daycare facility is understaffed and overwhelmed with children or
  • daycare staff members are not properly vetted before hiring or trained prior to interacting with children.

When daycare facilities are overwhelmed and have inadequate staffing, accidents are more likely to happen. The more kids one adult is tasked with watching over, the more likely they are to lose track of them, and the more likely it is for accidents to occur. It’s also more likely for staff members to become overwhelmed when they are caring for more children, and overwhelm can lead to stressful reactions that could be harmful to children, such as a crying baby being shaken and experiencing shaken baby syndrome or a severe brain injury.

While the state of Missouri requires all daycare staff members working directly with children to pass a criminal background check, rules and regulations don’t go much further than that. So, while many daycare facilities have their own minimum requirements for their staff, such as the completion of childcare certifications or basic medical training courses, many of them don’t. This means that untrained or inexperienced adults could be caring for your children, which increases the likelihood of abuse or neglect occurring.

Q: What are some physical signs that my child is being abused at daycare?

A: The possible physical signs you may see in your child if they are being abused at daycare are:

  • Defensive injuries to hands or forearms
  • Signs of restraining (bruising, scuffing, discoloration, inflammation, etc.) on extremities
  • Lacerations
  • Patterned bruising
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Burns
  • Pain or injury without an explanation for where it came from
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Trauma to the genital area

Q: What are some behavioral signs that my child is being abused at daycare?

A: You may not always see physical signs that your child is being abused at daycare, but that doesn’t mean the abuse they’re suffering isn’t causing them harm. The possible behavioral signs you may see in your child if they are being physically or sexually abused at daycare are:

  • Excessive crying or developmental delay in infants
  • Rebellious or defiant behavior
  • Sudden desperation to seek out physical affection
  • Avoiding, being afraid of, or not wanting to be left alone with certain people
  • Loss of previously acquired developmental skills
  • Excessive talk or knowledge about sexual topics
  • Avoidance or removal of clothing
  • Changes in their eating habits
  • Self-harming
  • Sexual behavior inappropriate for the child’s age

Q: What are some emotional signs that my child is being abused at daycare?

A: Children naturally have difficulties in regulating and expressing their emotions, but there are signs to look for that could indicate your child is being physically or sexually abused at daycare, including:

  • Changes in behavior or moods, such as aggression, anger, hostility, or hyperactivity
  • Sudden loss of self-confidence
  • Social withdrawal or lack of interest in being social
  • Sudden onset of excessive stomach aches and headaches
  • Sleep problems or nightmares
  • Depression, anxiety, unusual fears developing
  • Delayed or inappropriate emotional development

Q: How do I know if my child is being abused at their daycare or just going through changes?

A: It’s true that a young child’s behavior can change day to day as they learn about themselves and go through all the experiences life brings for the first time. So a child who is suddenly more active, less social, or who starts having nightmares may not necessarily be experiencing abuse. If you’re unsure, it’s important to pay attention to their long-term behavior. If a sudden change in behavior doesn’t seem to be going away, there may be some kind of ongoing abuse causing it to remain. You know your child and their demeanor better than anyone, so it’s important to watch them closely and be their advocate when they need you.

Q: What should I do if I suspect my child is being abused at their daycare?

A: If you suspect your child is the victim of daycare abuse, report it to your state social services department first. In Missouri, the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline number is 1-800-392-3738, and in Illinois, dial 1-800-252-2873. A quick internet search will provide the correct phone number you need if you’re located in a different state. Once you’ve alerted the state, contact the local police.

If it’s discovered that someone at your child’s daycare facility has caused your child harm, contact a daycare abuse attorney. They can help you hold the responsible party accountable for their actions and help you receive the compensation and justice your family deserves.

Find Answers and Justice with Finney Injury Law

Are you concerned about your child’s safety and well-being while in daycare? Don’t wait for signs of physical or sexual abuse to escalate. At Finney Injury Law, we understand the urgency of protecting your child from harm. If you suspect your child is being abused by their daycare provider, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our experienced Missouri and Illinois daycare injury and negligence attorneys are here to listen, advise, and advocate for your child’s rights.

Take control of the situation and ensure your child’s safety. If you have concerns or need legal assistance, contact us for a confidential consultation. Your child’s well-being is our top priority. Call now, 314-293-4222.