WASHINGTON, October 26, 2014 – Protecting children is always a parent’s first priority. Caution and an eyes-open approach are critical when placing a child in a daycare facility.
Three families are suing a Lyman, Maine child daycare and pre-school facility as well as the married couple owners the Dubois. Ms. Dubois allegedly called one child “fat and disgusting” and told her employees to make sure that the child was forced to run without rest while on the playground, despite the girl having difficulty breathing.
The woman allegedly said to an employee “I told you to keep her running. … I don’t care if you have to tape a candy bar to your (butt) to keep that child moving.”
A report from a former employee at the facility, Sunshine Childcare & Preschool, says a little boy was force-fed milk by Ms. Dubois and other employees, who would tilt the boy’s head back, plug his nose and pour milk into his mouth.
A third child there was slammed to the ground and dragged across the floor when he did not pay attention to Dubois.
A Michigan City family has filed a lawsuit against another daycare facility after their child hung himself with a jump rope. The child was not being monitored because of inadequate staffing.
A 4-year-old girl was injured at a dirty, illegal home-based daycare center in the Philadelphia Township of Bristol. The owners pled guilty to numerous criminal charges involving the child and other children, including child abuse, causing serious injuries, harassment, sexual assault, falsifying licenses, and failure to conduct background checks on employees.
Children in the home were left alone: one, a young boy, was found with a hammer and a chisel from an open toolbox; another was found strapped to a car seat in an empty room. A disabled man, renting a room in the home, was found sleeping next to a pile of feces.
Open liquor bottles were seen throughout the house and in reach of children.
Federal law requires that states have policies in place to protect the health and safety of children in childcare in three areas:
- The prevention and control of infectious diseases
- Building and physical premise safety
- Health and safety training appropriate to the program setting
These required policies are only adequate when considering the safety and well -being of children.
State standards for licensing childcare centers vary greatly. The rules on licensing and employee training, the number of children allowed to be cared-for, staff-child ratios, and the kind of environment that must be provided differ from state to state.
Many parents assume that because a facility is licensed it is safe, and that it does not need their personal scrutiny. Wrong! State inspections are typically infrequent, and passing the last one is meaningless when considering what is going on now.
The Child Care Connection, a resource and referral agency in Montgomery County, Maryland, conducted a survey last year. They found that 75 percent of parents spent less than one hour observing a facility before enrolling their children, and more than 11 percent enrolled their children without ever visiting the facility.
A lawsuit against the Heart2Heart Montessori Academy in Willow Park, Texas, alleges that employees purposefully withheld water from children in an attempt to limit the number of times diapers had to be changed.
When a parent places the daily care of their child with a daycare provider, they want to believe that their child will receive the best possible care and be properly monitored throughout the day. Unfortunately there are countless episodes of abuse and neglect across the country. Worse, much abuse is unreported because the child is either afraid to talk about the incident or is too young to articulate the problem.
Physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect are very real dangers when a child is in the care of others.
It is important, absolutely critical, to thoroughly investigate a facility before placing a child there. Visit several different facilities before deciding. An evaluation for child placement takes time, at least as much time as you would spend buying a car.
Make at least two visits at different times of the day to see how well the children are supervised during class time, mealtime, and outdoor play. Once there, stay for at least an hour to watch activities, check the surroundings, and ask questions.
Finally, ask for and check at least three references.
Researchers have identified 13 guidelines to investigate when choosing a child care facility.
- Are children supervised at all times, including when sleeping?
- How is discipline conducted? (Discipline should be positive, clear, consistent, and fair.)
Hand-washing and Diapering
- Do all caregivers and children wash their hands often, including before eating and after using the bathroom or changing diapers?
- Is the place where diapers are changed clean?
- Do caregivers remove the soiled diaper without dirtying any surface not already in contact with fecas or urine?
- Do caregivers clean and sanitize the surface after finishing the changing process?
- Does the director have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
- Has the director worked in childcare for at least two years?
- Do the teachers have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
- Have the teachers worked in childcare for at least one year?
- Do the teachers give children lessons and toys that are right for their ages?
Child-Staff Ratio and Group Size
- How many children are being cared for?
- How many caregivers are there? (The younger the children are, the more caregivers there should be.)
- Is your child up-to-date on all of the required immunizations?
- Does the facility have records proving that the other children are up-to-date on all their immunizations
- Are toxic substances (cleaning supplies and pest killers) kept away from children?
- Has the building been checked for dangerous substances like radon, lead and asbestos?
- Is poison control information posted?
- Does the facility have an emergency plan if a child is injured, sick, or lost?
- Does the facility have first-aid kits?
- Does the facility have information about who to contact in an emergency?
- Does the facility have a plan in case of a disaster like a fire, tornado, flood, blizzard, or earthquake?
- Does the facility regularly do practice drills?
- Are caregivers visible by others at all times, so a child is never alone with one caregiver?
- Have all caregivers undergone background checks?
- Have the caregivers been trained on how to prevent child abuse, how to recognize signs of child abuse, and how to report suspected child abuse?
- Does the facility keep medications out of reach?
- Are the caregivers trained and are the medications labeled to make sure the right child gets the right amount of the right medication at the right time?
Staff Training/First Aid
- Do caregivers know how to do first aid and rescue breathing?
- Have they been trained to understand and meet the needs of children of different ages?
- Is the playground regularly inspected for safety?
- Is the playground surrounded by a fence?
- If there is a sandbox, is it clean?
- Is equipment the right size and type for the age of children who use it?
After choosing a facility, when your child has been there for a while, it is important to know “problem” warning signs.
- Changes in behavior and/or mood swings
- Fear of going to the facility
- Displaying signs of fear regarding certain daycare worker(s)
- Bruising, cuts or other signs of injury
- Acting out inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters
- Displaying unusually aggressive or rebellious behavior
- Becoming overly clingy or exhibiting a fear of being alone
- Changes in toilet-training habits
- Non-accidental injuries such as falls or broken bones
- Unexplained cuts and bruises
- Rapid weight fluctuation
- Confusion or disorientation
- Depression or agitation
A lawsuit against a daycare facility addresses the wrongs that occurred. No matter the outcome of the lawsuit, the child has still lost, assuming the child is still alive. Address first your child’s safety, health, and happiness so there will be no need for a lawsuit, or worse.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on http://www.completeaccidentbook.com and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order
Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website http://www.textarudo.com and “like” the concept on the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/textarudo.