How to Investigate California Daycare or Childcare Abuse and Neglect

After you have witnessed your child’s shift in behavior (I give in outline of how to discover child abuse symptoms in other articles on child abuse on this website), and you have spoken with your child, the following steps should be taken in order to move forward with the investigation:

First, you should speak with your family network and try to find out whether any other family member has noticed similar characteristics and/or changes in the child. Family support is very important during the investigation of any child abuse or neglect. Second, speak with other parents to determine whether they have noticed the same or similar tendencies in their children’s behavior (usually this helps other parents look out for possible signs and will help with your investigation). Third, take your child to a medical doctor who is skilled and trained to recognize signs of child abuse (usually this type of doctor has more training to obtain important information from a child). A good medical doctor will know how to best evaluate and medically treat a child for any emotional or physical condition, collect good medical evidence, and recommend a proper medical treatment plan. Finally, you should consider filing a report with your local Child Protective Services agency. The National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-422-4453) will help you figure out which agency to go to first in your local area.

Keep in mind that reporting any suspected child abuse, regardless of hard evidence, is mandatory in California. All fifty states have passed some form of a mandatory child abuse and neglect reporting law in order to qualify for funding under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).

Legal Implications with Daycare & Child care Abuse and Neglect

Most often, daycare and child care abuse claims are based on state laws that vary between jurisdictions. In California, parents usually have a choice of what claims they can sue on, depending on the abuse or neglect their child encountered. For example, parents may choose from the following legal claims (this list mixes both civil and criminal claims):

1. Personal injury actions (negligence standard in a civil case);
2. Breach of contract (civil case);
3. Breach of child care duty (civil case);
4. Criminal battery & assault (criminal case);
5. Endangerment to a child (criminal and civil case);

To choose which of the above legal claims best fits your child’s injury case, two major factors should be considered:

1. The type of injury the child sustained—more specifically, was the child injury accidental or intentional? Next, how severe is the child injury? The type of medical care, along with the frequency, duration, and intensity, needs to be considered as well as whether or not there are any permanent injuries, scarring, or AMA (American Medical Association) whole person impairment to any particular body part. See my free legal book, The 10 Secrets You Need to Know About Your Injury Case, BEFORE You Call A Lawyer, for more details about how an injury case is documented and reviewed for settlement value (available for free on my Web site, www.blanelaw.com). I talk in great detail in that book about permanent injuries and how they must be appropriately documented using the AMA guidelines. Next, was this a single event or an ongoing injury?

2. The perpetrator’s state of mind needs to be evaluated. For example, did the daycare provider act with any intent to harm the child? Did the daycare provider act with reasonable common sense at the time of injury? Did the daycare provider have adequate policies and procedures to prevent the injury in the first place?

By reviewing and analyzing these questions and answers, an experienced child attorney can see what potential legal claims best fit with your child’s daycare injury case. Remember: every parent or guardian, under California law, has an obligation to report suspected abuse or neglect of a child to the appropriate authorities and allow a full investigation to proceed as soon as possible.

Also, remember that bringing legal action against a child care or daycare facility that is warranted and in the interest of justice for the injured child sends a powerful message that parents should not have to accept anything less than the reasonable child care they expect, and the daycare facility must take responsibility for its actions or inactions so the same injury never occurs again. Reasonable care is what society demands and expects; under a legal analysis, reasonable care is what another daycare facility or employee of another facility would do under the same circumstances to help prevent the child injury from occurring in the first place. If another facility would have objectively reacted differently given the same set of facts, a negligence lawsuit or claim can seriously be considered.