Signs Of Child Abuse In A Day Care Setting: Part 2

child care.jpgYesterday we discussed potential signs of mistreatment or abuse in a day care setting. Today we continue our discussion regarding child abuse as we consider the signs of various types of abuse.  

While many of these topics are exceptionally troubling, as parents it is important to pay attention to changes in the behavior of our children and recognize the importance of addressing these issues head on.

When it comes to unspeakable acts of sexual abuse of children there may or may not be any outwardly physical signs. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to any changes in the child’s behavior. In these situations, a mandated reporter or other person who is concerned about the child’s well-being should listen to the child closely and attentively in a calm and natural demeanor to put the child at ease. Because most sexual abuse is conducted in secrecy, the most important evidence in these cases is the testimony of the victim. 

If a child displays the following signs, they may be the victim of sexual abuse:

  • Has difficulty walking or sitting
  • Sudden refusal to participate in gym or physical activities
  • Sudden change in appetite
  • Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
  • Becomes pregnant or contracts an STD
  • Runs away
  • Reports sexual abuse by a parent or caregiver

Parents or adult caregivers who have sexually abused a child may be:

  • Unusually protective of the child or limit the child’s interaction with others
  • Secretive and isolated
  • Jealous or controlling with family members

Signs of Neglect:

As with other forms of child abuse, there is no one indicator of neglect. Instead, it is a variety of signs that appear repeatedly or in combination. In a child, these signs may be when the child:

  • Has frequent school absences
  • Begs or steals money for food
  • Lacks necessary medical or dental care
  • Is dirty or has severe body odor
  • Lacks weather appropriate clothing
  • Abuses alcohol or other drugs
  • Reports that there is no one at home to provide care

Neglect might be occurring, if the parent or caregiver:

  • Is indifferent to the child
  • Acts apathetic or depressed
  • Behaves irrationally or in bizarre manner
  • Is abusing drugs or alcohol

Signs of Emotional Abuse:

Children react in different ways to emotional abuse.   However, if you notice a child displaying any of the following behavior, it may be a sign of abuse:

  • Shows extremes in behavior (overly compliant, demanding, passive, or aggressive)
  • Is overly adult or overly infantile in behavior
  • Has delays in physical or emotional development
  • Has attempted suicide
  • Reports a lack of attachment to parent or caregiver

The caregiver or parent may be emotionally abusing the child if they:

  • Blame, belittle, or berate the child on a consistent basis
  • Seem unconcerned about the child
  • Overtly rejects the child

Impact of Child Abuse

Child abuse can have long lasting impacts on the child and cause physical, psychosocial, behavioral, and societal consequences and problems that can follow them into adolescence and adulthood. The harmful effects of child abuse and neglect depend on the circumstances surrounding the abuse (child’s age and development status when abuse occurred, the type of abuse, the frequency, duration, and severity of abuse, and the relationship between the victim and abuser) as well as the treatment and community options available after the abuse occurs. 

Physical health consequences can include:

  • Minor injuries (bruises of cuts)
  • Major injuries (broken bones, brain injuries, death)
  • Recurring health problems
  • Impaired brain development
  • Poor physical health

Psychological consequences can include:

  • Immediate emotional effects (isolation, fear, inability to trust)
  • Lifelong consequences (low self-esteem, depression, relationship difficulties)
  • Depression and withdrawal (even in children as young as 3)
  • Poor mental and emotional health
  • Cognitive disabilities
  • Social difficulties

Behavioral consequences can include:

  • Difficulties during adolescence (delinquency, teen pregnancy, low academic achievement, drug use, mental health problems)
  • Juvenile delinquency and adult criminality
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Abusive behavior

Child abuse and neglect results in direct and indirect social costs including direct costs associated with the child welfare system and child abuse investigations and indirect costs associated with criminal activity, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence. It is not only in the children’s’ best interest, but in society’s best interest to strengthen child abuse laws and regulations and support programs to prevent child abuse and neglect. 

Your child getting hurt and suffering a serious injury is every parent’s worst fear. It is important to pay close attention to any injuries your child suffers or any changes in behavior in order to recognize signs that may indicate the possibility of abuse and neglect. Public awareness and prevention are some of the best tools in stopping child abuse and neglect. 

If your child has suffered injury, abuse, or in the worst situation, death, while in a day care home, day care center, group day care home, or any other child care arrangements, you may be entitled to compensation and the opportunity to hold the person responsible for the injury accountable. 


Child Welfare Information Gateway

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children & Families

Injury Prevention Policy: Child Care Safety

National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education

National Association of Child Care Resources & Referral Agencies Child Care

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services: Day Care & Early Childhood

Illinois Early Learning Project: How Do I Start a Child Care Center in Illinois?

Child Care Aware

Nursing Home Abuse Blog: Trust Your Instinct When Placing a Child in Daycare with Potential Hazards

Nursing Home Abuse Blog: Children in Day Care Are Susceptible to Many of the Same Problems Our Elderly Nursing Home Patients Encounter

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