Have you seen the horrifying story trending on social media, about the daycare worker who pleads guilty to charges of sexually assaulting children as young as twelve months? The worker and her boyfriend are charged with rape and kidnapping as well as videotaping the attacks at the daycare center.
How does this happen? More importantly, how can we prevent it? We can educate ourselves and keep learning and adapting and finding ways to prevent abuse before it happens so that our children can grow up and grow older as healthy, happy, whole adults.
A few things to consider when choosing a daycare:
- Utilize the local licensing agency which oversees child daycare. Most states have an agency which licenses, monitors and investigates complaints against licensed care providers. Usually, the information is public and can be accessed by request. Once a parent has a choice in mind, the parent can read through the history of prior inspections and any complaints previously filed. Contact the state or county agency responsible for providing this service.
- Be careful when utilizing private referral agencies. There are a lot of internet and other private childcare referral agencies which, usually for a fee, will provide childcare referrals in your area based on need, age of the child, and location. This can be a useful service, yet most do not provide any guarantee regarding the quality of service. Very few referral services conduct comprehensive background checks on the daycare provider and any other adult who resides in or frequents the home.
- Before deciding on a daycare, spend some time observing daily operations. Legitimate daycare operators will be willing to have a prospective parent drop by and observe for a small amount of time. If this is not allowed, for whatever reason, it may be a red flag.
- Never use an unlicensed daycare provider. There is no legitimate excuse for not being licensed. Make yourself familiar with the basic licensing requirements in your area and keep those in mind when beginning to make contact with childcare providers.
- Make sure you can drop in unannounced if you wish. Most good care providers understand parents’ anxiety when initially placing a child in someone else’s care. They should be willing to accommodate parents in order to help ease the initial anxiety.
- Make sure the daycare is a proper fit for your child. Not all daycare situations are for all children. One that primarily cares for preschool-aged children is not usually a good fit for an infant or toddler. The structure and care requirements are vastly different.
- Periodically drop in unannounced. This is the best way to get a glimpse into what really happens each day where your child is being cared for. Be realistic and don’t overdo it, too much of a good thing can become a distraction.
- Make a habit of looking your child over for any signs of abuse or neglect. Be reasonable, not hyper-vigilant. Become familiar with signs and indicators of abuse. If you observe something concerning, ask the care provider. Make sure the explanation is plausible and reasonable. If your child is injured, you should obtain a copy of the incident report.
- Have a “Plan B” available if there is an urgent need to make a sudden change. This is actually one of the primary reasons children remain in care, even after a parent realizes there is something not right. Parents are often trapped in their jobs and routines and find it very difficult to make a necessary decision even after the evidence is clear that they should. Having a backup plan available will help if there is a sudden and unexpected need to change the care arrangements.
- If there is an incident of abuse that occurs with your child or any other child in care, notify the proper authorities! Law enforcement, CPS, and licensing staff are equipped to conduct comprehensive investigations and then act accordingly. Something you report may end up saving other children from harm.
Most importantly, remember that you, as the parent, are your child’s best advocate. Trust your instincts and be aware of red flags. Choose wisely, your littles are counting on you!
Editor, Ask Lala
Laura Fogarty writes “Ask Lala” for the Stop Abuse Campaign. She is a mother, an advocate and the author of two children’s abuse prevention books: I’M THE BOSS OF ME! and WE ARE JUST ALIKE!