When dropping off a child at daycare, most parents trust that their little one will be cared for and nurtured. Parents shouldn’t have to worry that someone could be hurting their child at a licensed childcare facility in this country. However, too many parents have had to live through the nightmare of their child being falling victim to daycare abuse.
Children have suffered the trauma of physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of their caretakers. This abuse can often cause mental and emotional problems that require years of therapy for the child. It’s very scary to think that these predators specifically choose to work at daycare facilities in order to have easy access to children.
It is important that all parents and guardians in Pennsylvania are aware of the state law regarding child abuse and that all members of our communities know what the warning signs are of a child that is being abused.
What is Daycare Abuse?
According to Pennsylvania law, child abuse is defined as “an act which causes non-accidental serious physical injury, sexual abuse/exploitation, serious physical neglect constituting prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or failure to provide the essentials of life.” In the case of daycare abuse, the perpetrator is an adult employee at the daycare center where the victim is enrolled, or a nanny, school employee, or even after school provider entrusted with the child’s care.
Perpetrators often frighten children with threats that bad things will happen to them or their loved ones if they tell. Others try to align themselves with children, asking them to keep a “secret.” Experts advise parents to keep an open line of communication with their children, and make sure their children understand they will not be punished for telling.
Certain individuals are mandated to report any suspected abuse to the Department of Public Welfare, which includes doctors, teachers, and law enforcement officials to name a few. The reports can also come from parents or anonymous individuals. These reports are then investigated by the state to determine if the claim can be substantiated.
How Prevalent is Daycare Abuse in Pennsylvania?
Sadly, daycare abuse is a serious problem in the United States, and in Pennsylvania in particular. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Annual Child Protective Services report, in 2015 there were 2,508 reports of suspected abuse in childcare settings. Childcare facilities include daycare centers, foster homes, boarding homes, juvenile detention centers, residential facilities and institutional facilities.
On average, this amounted to seven reports of suspected childcare abuse every day of the year in 2015. Overall, child abuse in Pennsylvania saw a sharp increase in 2015, with 863 more substantiated claims of abuse than in 2014.
Warning Signs of Daycare Abuse
If your child has told you that an adult caretaker is doing something to hurt them (or another child), it is imperative that you listen closely. It may be difficult for very young children to express or explain verbally what is happening to them. According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, very young children (under the age of 3) are at a greater risk of abuse than school-aged children. If you are suspicious, look for these common warning signs of child abuse:
- Extreme changes in behavior – A child who is normally outgoing may suddenly become very shy or withdrawn. A normally quiet child may suddenly be very loud and rambunctious.
- Extreme mood swings.
- Aggression, such as kicking, biting, and scratching.
- Regular nightmares or night terrors.
- Inappropriate sexual behaviors, knowledge, or excessive interest.
- Urinary tract infections or soreness around the genitals.
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, and injuries.
- Changes in toilet-training habits.
- Reversion to infantile behavior.
- Negative reaction to attending daycare, refusal to attend, clingy, crying behavior or excuses not to go.
Toddlers or babies may exhibit these additional signs:
- Fear of a certain location, gender, or type of physical appearance.
- Discomfort with undressing.
- Regression in verbal skills or potty training.
- Interruptions in normal sleep behavior or frequent nightmares or terrors.
- Inability to engage in age-appropriate play with other children.
If you suspect for any reason that your child or a child you know may be a victim of daycare abuse, it is important to report your suspicions to ChildLine, Pennsylvania’s 24-hour hotline for reporting child abuse: 800-932-0313.
It is also important that you report the suspected incident to your local law enforcement agency and be sure to have your child examined by his or her doctor as soon as possible.
Personal Injury Lawyers Available to Help
If your child has been the victim of abuse in a childcare facility, your family will need help handling the complex, legal side of this crime. No child should ever have to endure the pain of abuse by someone who was entrusted with his or her care.
After contacting law enforcement and having your child examined by a doctor, let your next call be to the attorneys at Donaghue & Labrum. We understand that child abuse is every parent’s worst nightmare, and we will work hard to win your family the compensation to cover therapy, medical bills, loss of wages, and more. Don’t hesitate — call today to set up a free consultation in one of our offices located in Media or West Chester PA.