Unfortunately, child abuse and neglect can come in many different forms. None of these forms, however, are more disturbing or upsetting than when a trusted caregiver is committing or allowing child abuse to occur. As a parent, it is your parental duty to question and investigate the type of care your child receives in any situation or circumstance.

The actual suspicion of child abuse does not necessarily have to be present to begin asking questions about a child’s thoughts or experiences within the daycare facility. Just as you would speak with your child, you should also speak with the daycare center director using some open-ended questions. When doing this, do not be frightened by any long silences, but if the center director does not sufficiently answer your questions or provide you with assurances, tell him or her. Any reputable daycare facility should, without delay, address any and all parental questions with good documentation and a plan to solve any issue regarding the care of a child. When you are uncovering any child abuse or neglect issues, it is recommended you go with your instincts during an investigation. Do your best to gather evidence from the child directly, then, from the daycare or child care center, you can also gather information from other parents and the California State Licensing Board. One suggestion I often give parents is to never put a child into a daycare or child care program without an open-door policy. It is my belief that any parent should be able to go to any daycare facility with any concern and without any notice.

You should be mindful of the four main types of child abuse and neglect at a daycare or child care facility—in no particular order, they are:

Physical abuse of a child: a person performs an intentional act against a child that produces physical harm; usually seen in a disciplinary setting;

Neglect of a child: a person or entity fails to provide food, shelter, a safe environment, education, or health care, and this may result in physical harm. Neglect is by far the most common type of child abuse. Remember, we have previously discussed lack of adult supervision (this happens all too often);

Emotional abuse of a child: lack of action on the part of a child caregiver; it can also be a failure to show affection toward a child (or simply direct, verbal abuse, as well as bullying and other forms of mental harm);

Sexual abuse of a child: this type of abuse involves sexual contact with a child, including penetration or simple inappropriate touching. Non-contact abuse includes posing or watching sexually explicit pictures or videos, observation or performance of inappropriate sexual activities, or witnessing any type of sexual exhibitionism. Sadly, this type of child abuse is difficult to identify and catch, and it can be the most traumatic for a child.

Warning signs of daycare or child care abuse

Your child is the best indicator as to whether any abuse may be occurring at a daycare center, and there are things you can do to be proactive about protecting your child. It is good to ask your child open-ended questions and listen intently to the answers your child gives. Do not simply accept a “yes” or “no” answer from your child. Depending on the age and experience of your child, he or she may not understand what behaviors (adult or child) are acceptable or not acceptable. The following examples are other physical and behavioral cues that may indicate some form of child abuse and neglect:

Layering of clothes during weather inappropriate times; Unexplained stomachaches and headaches;
Regression to infantile, “clingy” behavior;
School problems, behavioral problems;

Changes in toilet habits;

Fear of certain places, people, or activities;

Strange responses, whether verbal or physical, to otherwise normal situations;

Fear, aggression, and/or “clingy” behavior upon arrival at the daycare facility;

Reduction or cessation of communication with trusted adults;
Unexplained physical injuries, such as bruises, black eyes,

broken bones, bite marks, burns, and abrasions;

Pain, itching, bleeding, or bruising in the genital areas;

Difficulty walking or sitting;

Changes in your child’s behavior or extreme mood swings;

Changes in bed-wetting behavior, nightmares, fear of going to bed, or other sleep disturbances;

Acting out inappropriately: hitting, striking, or other rebellious behavior in a normal situation;

Acting out inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters;

Other warning signs include the daycare provider being unable to provide an adequate explanation for physical injuries; or, the facility immediately denies all accusations, quickly siding with employee explanations instead of taking an objective, investigatory route; or, other parents speak up with the same or similar suspicions.