Systematic reporting of abuse and neglect in child care settings did not exist prior to the 1980s. Since that time there has been a significant increase in the concern about abuse or neglect in child care facilities from both the public and professional sectors. These concerns have led to public officials, parents, and educators more closely examining any allegations of child abuse and neglect.
Abuse in child care settings.
No childcare setting is exempt from the possibility of child abuse or neglect. In spite of the implementation of policies and procedures that are intended to reduce the risk of child abuse in child care programs, there is still the very real potential of a staff member mistreating a child. In some cases the abuse is intentional, but there are also cases where caregivers are accused of mistreatment when there had been no intention of causing harm to a child. For example, stress or lack of knowledge in specific skill sets can cause a caregiver to unintentionally hurt a child. There is a definite need for child care and daycare providers to develop plans for responding to allegations of child abuse by either program staff or volunteers. There is little doubt it is important to place priority on the child’s well-being, but one must also be mindful of the rights of the caregiver.
How an individual child care provider or program responds to allegations of child abuse or neglect depends on the situation. The director will respond differently to the concerns of a parent about how the caregiver handled a child’s misbehavior than when those concerns are reported to child protective services indicating a staff member is guilty of abusing a child.
You, as a parent, are not going to wait around for an internal investigation. If you believe your child has been abused, file a report, and then call a daycare abuse attorney to ensure that you are doing everything you can.
Response from the director.
It is typically the director or another designated staff person who take responsibility for responding to any allegations or reports of suspected child abuse by child care workers. When the daycare center involved is a smaller center or family child care, the director is usually also the one responsible for the primary child care.
The director needs to respond in a timely matter any time a parent or staff member expresses concerns about the way a caregiver handles a child. Even if the situation does not appear to be one of possible mistreatment, the director still needs to respond quickly in order to address all concerns. There are several steps the director should follow when addressing these concerns that include the following:
- Arrange a meeting with the parent in order to obtain details about the incident and address any concerns. The director needs to document details of the conversation including any agreements reached with the parent and advise the parent how he or she will handle the situation with the individual caregiver.
- If possible and appropriate, meet with the child to discuss the incident. This meeting should be general and low-key in nature with open-ended conversation rather than leading or even asking questions. Use questions such as, “How did you get the bruise on your leg?” rather than “Did Ms. Smith hurt do cause that bruise on your leg?”
- Meet with the individual caregiver in order to hear that account of the incident in question. If the case involves one of inappropriate but not abusive treatment it is essential for the director to review the policies and procedures for appropriate care. The director must also advise the employee of the possible consequences for failure to make an improvement during a pre-defined period of time. The director needs to follow up by observing the behavior of the individual caregiver over time and document any improvements or lack of improvement and take appropriate action.
- Whenever appropriate, arrange separate meetings with both the staff person and the parent in order to review each one’s account of the incident in order to clear up any possibility of miscommunication or misunderstanding. The director, parent, and caregiver need to reach an agreement on the manner in which the child’s behavior will be addressed in the future.
- In the event the director suspects abuse or maltreatment occurred, it is essential (and a requirement) to make a report to the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services.
If there is a possibility the incident involves sexual abuse or severe physical abuse, the program director needs to notify CPS immediately – without speaking with the individual accused of the abuse.
If you believe your child’s child care provider or day care center is guilty of abuse, our experienced legal staff can help you take the appropriate action. If you simple have questions, we can answer them. You can reach us toll-free at 1-877-403-9378.