Every day, millions of parents trust daycare facilities, nannies, after-school programs, and other childcare services to care for their children. These facilities are supposed to provide safe care for some of society’s most vulnerable and impressionable members: our children.
Most daycare providers do a fine job. But when children do suffer from sexual abuse at a daycare, the harm to the child and the family can be devastating.
What’s worse, though, is that many cases of daycare abuse and neglect go unreported, either because children are too scared to say anything, are too young to communicate, or because parents are unwilling to believe that their daycare provider is breaking the law.
If you believe your child has been a victim of sexual abuse at a daycare provider, it’s important that you speak with a lawyer who has handled cases involving sexual abuse at a daycare before. A daycare abuse lawyer will quickly take steps to preserve and obtain necessary evidence and interview daycare employees. Many daycare providers have video surveillance that can be requested. But if too much time has elapsed and the daycare facility has not been properly notified of the need to preserve evidence, they can erase any records, and with it critical evidence that might support your claim.
Daycare abuse can take many forms, but the warning signs are often similar. In many cases, daycare abusers follow a similar pattern to gain the trust of the children they are abusing and will use fear and intimidation to convince the child not to tell anyone.
If you suspect your child has been a victim of sexual abuse at a daycare, be on the lookout for signs of abuse.
If your child suddenly becomes withdrawn, shy, depressed, or shows signs of guilt or shame that are out of the ordinary for your child, they might have suffered from sexual abuse at daycare. These are signs that a child is hiding something. It can be difficult for a child to keep a secret and they often retreat into themselves. An abused child may also become aggressive as a way of dealing with the trauma of abuse.
Sometimes children who have been sexually abused at daycare will display an unusual interest in sexual matters, such as by acting out inappropriate sexual activity or demonstrating sexual knowledge that is beyond what they would be expected to know at their age. Often it is an abuser who is exposing the child to this information.
A child who has suffered sexual abuse at daycare may react in an angry or fearful manner when they know they are going to daycare. They make fake an illness, cry, or otherwise try to avoid attending. Sometimes these behaviors are just normal childhood behavior; but if there are other signs, investigate to see if there is a pattern, especially if the behavior only occurs relative to the daycare center, or even a particular caretaker. If your child frequently complains about daycare, it might be time to investigate the matter more thoroughly.
Regressive behavior, such as bedwetting, thumb sucking, fear of the dark, or excessive crying could be signs of sexual abuse at daycare. Children may display these behaviors if they are dealing with serious emotional issues caused by sexual abuse at daycare.
Urinary tract infections, yeast infections, or sexual transmitted diseases are obvious signs of potential sexual abuse and should be investigated. Seek medical attention as soon as possible and investigate the cause of these infections.
Parents know best when it comes to their children. You know what is normal for your child, and what is not. If you observe behavior or other signs that make you think your child might be a victim of sexual abuse at daycare, talk to your child. Make sure you’re not leading them into a particular answer but take time so that they feel listened to and know that they do not have to hide things or feel embarrassed.
Sexual abuse at a daycare center can have long-lasting effects on your child and may require medical or psychological treatment.
Unfortunately, many child molesters and abusers seek employment at daycare centers precisely because they know that such employment will give them easy access to children. Licensed daycare centers are required to conduct background checks on anyone who works for them, but some daycare centers fail to do so. Or, if the abuser does not have a criminal record, the background check will not turn up any reason to disqualify the abuser from employment. Leaving your child with an unlicensed daycare facility is even more dangerous as there is no regulatory oversight of any kind.
If your child shows signs of sexual abuse at daycare, report your suspicions to state authorities, and contact a lawyer. Remember that your actions could prevent further instances of abuse. While police and other state officials will investigate, it’s also important that you pursue civil remedies against the daycare provider to seek compensation for any related losses. If your child suffered from sexual abuse at a daycare facility, your family may be entitled to compensation for medical treatment and psychological counseling, medical bills, the cost of alternative child care, compensation for lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Tom Robenalt started his litigation career defending medical providers at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 20 years, he has used that experience to help Ohio consumers obtain the damages to which they are entitled.