Nationwide Daycare & Child Care Sexual Abuse Lawyers
Childcare providers should give parents and caregivers peace of mind that their children will be safe and exploring age-appropriate activities and developing new skills. Parents and caregivers should be able to send their children to child care settings without fearing abuse and neglect. The sad reality, however, is that child sex abuse occurs in child care settings. In 2019, an estimated 656,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect nationwide. Of those reports, educational settings provided the highest rates of professionals with reports of abuse at 21%.and many of them came from child care settings outside of k-12 education.
The most common types of abuse were:
- 50 percent of victims suffered neglect.
- 14 percent of victims suffered physical abuse.
- 22 percent of victims suffered sexual abuse.
Daycare Sexual Abuse
Children are vulnerable to sexual abuse at daycare playgroup, and unlike child sexual abuse in other settings where the abuse frequently takes place in isolation, often these children are abused out in the open, during diaper changes, potty breaks, changing clothing, and on the playgrounds outside. Remember child predators seek out employment that gives them access to children, and childcare settings are unfortunately an ideal environment due to the lack of strict legal requirements, varying compliance oversight, and high staffing turnover due to staff being underpaid and overworked. Before enrolling your child in a daycare, check your state’s human services department compliance reports to determine if the facility has prior violations related to safety regulations.
Babysitter & Nanny Sexual Abuse
Children are sometimes sexually abused by their babysitter, or while a babysitter should supervise them. In recent years, families have relied upon online services such as Care.com or other providers to identify babysitting candidates. Sometimes these online providers fail to properly screen perpetrators or take other reasonable steps to give parents the information they need to make informed decisions. Under these circumstances, online babysitting websites may be sued.
Babysitters and nannies might also be recommended by friends, family, or neighbors. If someone recommends a babysitter to you that they know or reasonably should know poses a risk of harm to your child, and they fail to disclose this information to you, they may be held responsible if the babysitter abuses your child. If that person owns a home, there is a substantial chance that they have homeowners insurance coverage that will pay for the medical bills, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other damages that your child may have suffered.
You can require your babysitter to be certified by agencies such as The Red Cross which offers courses in child safety, reporting requirements, and other vital training that ensures the babysitter you are leaving with your child understands and is certified in these areas.
Most states categorize those who work in professions that engage in regular contact with children as mandatory reporters. In at least 18 states, however, anyone and everyone who knows or suspects that child abuse has occurred is required by law to make a report.
Summer Camp Sexual Abuse
Summer camps should be safe places for children to enjoy, where parents can trust their kids will be safe from sexual abuse. Unfortunately, children are sexually abused at summer camps by staff, volunteers, or other children. Summer camps often recruit older youth who are on summer break and seeking short-term employment to serve as staff or camp counselors who are often charged with oversight of daily activities and all programming. These staff should have proper certifications, background checks and training. Summer camps offer a variety of activities that should be exciting and fun for children, however, often they are breeding grounds for predators because of high enrollments and the variety of activities such as swimming and other activities that require children to have access to changing rooms and showers.
Foster Care Child Sexual Abuse
Foster care is meant to be a safe and temporary alternative home for children who are already suffering or at risk of abuse and neglect, homes should be safe places for children to land in the aftermath of such abuse. All too often, these children are taken from one abusive environment and placed into another. While Children and Youth agencies have strict requirements around foster parents ensuring background checks and training are done, they often fail in the oversight of the home children are being placed in due to lack of funding and significant caseloads. One study found that girls living in foster homes are a particularly vulnerable group. The investigation examined 155 adolescent girls in foster care and found that 81% had experienced sexual abuse. 68% of girls reported being sexually abused by more than one individual.
A John Hopkins University study of a group of foster children in Maryland found that children in foster care are four times more likely to be sexually abused than their peers not in this setting, and children in group homes are 28 times more likely to be abused.
Adoption Child Sexual Abuse
Prior to a child being placed in an adoptive home, Child and Youth or a private placement agency must do an extensive screening of the home to ensure it is fit for the child. In addition to reviewing the home to ensure there is a safe and comfortable living environment, they must also extensively investigate the persons living and sometimes frequently visiting the home. If a person who has a history of inappropriate contact with children lives in the home or frequently visits, that home should be disqualified as an adoptive home for the child. If a child is adopted into a home and preventable sexual abuse occurs, a civil case may be brought against the agency responsible for the placement.
Juvenile Center Sexual Abuse
Sadly, children who need emotional and behavioral support are often vulnerable to sexual abuse. Adults frequently pray on these children and convince them they will not be believed if they report sexual abuse given their history.
All too often facilities that house juveniles also fail to supervise their residents. Sometimes these residents have a history of sexual abuse and this should trigger them to supervise individuals more closely. When housing offenders, facilities should ensure proper ratios of staff, the ability to supervise all areas of the facility at all times, and adopt other policies and procedures to dissuade sexual abuse.
How To Identify Safe Child Care Settings?
Crime needs opportunity and what we know about child sexual abuse is that the abuse often takes place in isolation, any environment where an adult or youth worker would have one-on-one time with children puts that child at the greatest risk. One exception to this is found in daycares, sometimes that abuse happens out in the open without anyone’s knowledge such as during diaper changes, potty breaks, and playground times. You want to find environments that have a high level of monitoring. When seeking a place for your child(ren) treat it much like an interview and know that you have a right to access information and ask as many questions as necessary for you to feel comfortable.
Below are some tips for parents and caregivers to look out for when placing their child(ren) in the care of an organization or agency.
Every childcare setting should have clearly outlined screening processes for staff and volunteers. These processes should include a full criminal background check, a child welfare background check in the respective state you are in, and if that person has lived in any other state, a child welfare check from that respective state. There should be extensive interviewing processes with pointed questions about child safety and protection. There should always be professional recommendations or references given by multiple persons both from the person’s professional life and personal life. A lot of summer camps use adult volunteers and or older youth, often returning from summer break for employment or those needing internships for disciplines such as becoming a teacher or social worker, etc. Programs should deploy the same due diligence in screening for any and all adults or older youth staff or volunteers, regardless of whether or not they are getting paid, their access to the children in that program is the same so the screening and rules should be applied equally. Many states have various laws and regulatory requirements around these screenings, so it is also good to be familiar with what your state requires and then ask for proof that those requirements are being upheld in that organization or program. You would be surprised how many organizations and agencies are not in full compliance and get away with it due to staff shortages and overworked state agencies. Childwelfare.gov offers quick and easy search functions to find your state and its applicable laws and oversight.
Staffing ratios to child enrollments are another key indicator to know when considering where to place your child(ren). As we indicated that most child sexual abuse and grooming happens in isolation, it is vital that the environment where you are placing your child does not allow for one-on-one time between staff/volunteers and the children they are serving. You want lots of supervision and monitoring happening in the environment where your children will be, the more staff and volunteers, the more eyes and ears there are to ensure nothing inappropriate is said or occurs. Staff and volunteers will have a higher level of accountability when there are more of them around. If something does happen to a child, the response time will also be much quicker when there are plenty of staff and volunteers to respond to a child in need.
Finally, having high staffing can serve as a deterrent for would-be offenders. Remember, just as you are choosing where to place your children for safety reasons, there are, unfortunately, those who are looking for opportunities to gain access for the sole purpose of preying upon children.
Ask about their ratios and how they maintain them when staff/volunteers call out sick or are otherwise unavailable. How do they handle staff breaks and who substitutes to watch the children? How do they handle bathroom breaks for the children? As a rule, children should always go to most places in groups, and for bathroom breaks, children should be given age-appropriate privacy in the bathroom, for younger children who need help in the bathroom there should be a strict open-door policy. No adult or younger youth should ever be in a closed bathroom alone with a child. For infants, all changing of diapers and cleaning should be done out in the open where others can observe and monitor.
Unfortunately, many childcare settings such as daycare, summer camps, and other childcare providers do not pay well thus attracting individuals with little to no educational requirements and very little training. Daycares are notorious for being understaffed, underpaid and overworked making any oversight and educational training that much harder.
Mandatory Reporting Policies
Every childcare facility, summer camp, etc. should have mandatory reporting policies. Mandatory reporting for child abuse is a legal requirement that certain professionals, such as teachers, doctors, social workers, and other individuals and volunteers who work closely with children are required to report any suspected or known cases of child abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities.
In most jurisdictions, the legal requirement for mandatory reporting is in place to protect children and ensure that they receive the necessary support and services to address any abuse or neglect they may have experienced. Failure to report suspected or known cases of child abuse can result in legal and professional consequences for the individual who failed to report.
The exact requirements for mandatory reporting can vary depending on the jurisdiction, but typically the report must include information such as the child’s name, age, and location, the nature and extent of the suspected abuse or neglect, and any other relevant information that may be helpful in investigating the report.
With recent highlighted child sexual abuse cases in the news around the country many jurisdictions revised their legal requirements around who is a mandatory reporter and when. In an abundance of caution, many childcare facilities have taken those requirements seriously and applied them to all staff regardless of how the law reads.
One area to know is who is to report, to whom are they to report, and when. These are vital pieces of information, as it has been uncovered in far too many child sexual abuse cases that cover-ups thrive where these policies lack. The reporting line should go all the way up to child welfare services, not the boss or CEO. Each mandated reporter should have to make a formal report that gets filed with the state, simply reporting to a supervisor or manager is no longer the best practice as that is often how and when cover-ups happen.
Training for Staff
All the policies and procedures are great to have but if staff and volunteers are not trained on them, they are useless. The next area you should seek to understand is the training staff and volunteers receive.
- What is the frequency of training?
- What is required and what is not required?
- Do they have minimum training standards?
- Do they offer advanced training opportunities to keep up to date on best practices and new areas of law?
- Do they have proof of the training received by staff and volunteers?
These are great questions to ask when you are interviewing about a new place for your child(ren). Good childcare facilities will have all this information documented and readily available. If they do not, that is a major red flag.
Many states offer accreditation and or certification for childcare facilities and most should be licensed by the state. Also there are ways for babysitters and other child care workers to become certified in places such as The Red Cross and other agencies.Ask for verification of the certifications and training. Many sites now offer online training and certifications, in these instances, when hiring a worker, quiz them on the basic requirements to see if they actually paid attention to the training or if they just clicked through to get the requirement fulfilled.
It is important to know how the place you are seeking for your child(ren) ranks in these areas, are they certified or accredited by the appropriate entities? Many states will have ranking abilities for organizations and schools, knowing where your place falls within that ranking structure, such as in Pennsylvania there is Keystone STARS, a responsive system to improve, support, and recognize the continuous quality improvement efforts of early learning programs in Pennsylvania. This system is one with various rankings dependent upon the quality of the entity, the higher the stars the better the program. Look in your state for systems such as this that are built into your state’s child welfare or education departments.
Quality of Materials and Facility
They say you should never judge a book by its cover, however, in child supervision and monitoring, we believe differently. You should do a virtual and physical walk-through of the place you are looking into for your child(ren). When looking online, look closely at the webpage, is it up to date with current staffing and information, and does it contain much of the information we spoke of in this blog? Are there policies and procedures online? Do they cover child safety and reporting? Look for Google reviews or other reviews of that facility, you can do this simply by googling the name and the word “reviews” or “experiences”. Always seek ones that are not necessarily on the provider’s webpage as they are only going to put their best foot forward. Ask around if others have experiences with that provider on Facebook etc.
Always do a physical location visit before placing your child in any program or provider and take note of how the place looks, and whether it is child friendly or appropriate. Are there plenty of toys, games, art supplies, and colorful and engaging items around? Observe what shape those items are in and ask how they obtain items. Make sure equipment isn’t outdated, rusted, or broken. Ask about maintenance and cleanliness protocols. If the provider does not take care of the belongings and items that your child(ren) will be using, how can you have any confidence in the care they take in staffing?
Lastly, you can inquire as to whether or not the provider you are looking into has ever been sued or found out of compliance with the standards in your jurisdiction. To find out if anyone has ever been sued, you can go down to your local courthouse and simply ask. Those records are open and accessible to you and anyone else who wants to know, make sure you have the current name of the provider you are looking at and any known names they have operated under in the past. Do Google searches with key terms like “sued” “found responsible” “guilty” etc. around that provider and staff as the internet holds so much information these days and reports are often online.
You can also check your respective state board for a database to find out if that organization has any regulatory infractions. Simply visit childwelfare.gov to find your respective state and then locate the oversight agency in your state. They will have the information somewhere on any compliance issues or regulatory findings as they must be made public.
We realized how scary it is to trust anyone with your child or children. We hope these tips help you navigate finding a place you feel comfortable with in a way that is helpful to you and your family. Remember, you have the right to ask as many questions as you want, do your research, request information, and above all else trust your gut if you think a provider is out of compliance or practicing in a manner that places children at risk of abuse or neglect, report them immediately. If a provider balks at your requests or questions? That is a clear indication that they are not going to be a place your child(ren) will be safe in. Any provider should be transparent and willing to engage you in these vital conversations. It truly does take all of us to ensure the protection and safety of our children.
Sometimes even the best, most highly rated and skilled child care facilities have child sexual abuse happen. If your child’s daycare, summer camp, babysitter, or other childcare provider enables their sexual abuse, they should be accountable.
High Profiles Cases of Child Abuse in DayCares, Camps Etc.
Below is a timeline of some of the most well known and recent child sexual abuse cases in daycare settings.
- 1982 – Kern County child abuse cases.
- 1983 – McMartin preschool trial in California.
- 1984 – Fells Acres Day School in Massachusetts.
- 1984 – Georgian Hills Daycare Center, Memphis, Tennessee.
- 1985 – Country Walk Babysitting in Florida.
- 1985 – Wee Care Nursery School in New Jersey in April.
- 1986 – Presidio Child Development Center in San Francisco.
- 1989 – Glendale Montessori sexual abuse case in Stuart, Florida.
- 1989 – Little Rascals Day Care Center scandal in Edenton, North Carolina.
- 1991 – Dan and Fran Keller, Fran’s Daycare Center, Oak Hill, Texas.
- 2003 – MacLaren Hall was a children’s residential care center in Los Angeles County
- 2016 – Escobar Family Child Care in Hesperia, California.
- 2023 – Oxon Hill Center, Maryland.
If you suspect someone you know or love was abused at a childcare facility, please contact us today for a free and confidential assessment, our lawyers have experience in holding childcare facilities accountable.
Call Our Child Care Sexual Abuse Lawyers Today
Our team at Andreozzi + Foote is here to help you and your family. Call today at 866-311-8640.