Child Care: Make Sure It Is Safe

How can I help prevent problems?

Most child care providers are loving, trustworthy people. There are a few, however, who are unfit to care for children. To help prevent problems and make sure that children are safe:

  • Find out who will be watching your child if the regular caregiver must be away.
  • Make unannounced visits at different times of the day.
  • Make sure that the facility is licensed by the department of social services, human services, or health. (This does not guarantee a safe environment.)
  • Check whether the home or center has had any complaints.
  • Always check your caregiver's references.
  • Get to know other parents who have children enrolled and ask them about their experiences.
  • Make sure that all caregivers have gone through a background check.
  • Ask if caregivers have been trained in how to recognize and prevent child abuse.
  • Make sure that caregivers can be seen by others at all times so a child is never alone with just one caregiver.

What are the warning signs?

Watch for these behaviors that might be signs that a caregiver may abuse a child:

  • not being willing to provide the names and numbers of other parents who have children enrolled
  • not welcoming your unannounced visits
  • yelling or screaming at children
  • grabbing or jerking children
  • not letting a child speak or make choices about what they want to do or what materials they want to use
  • using the same discipline technique with every child and in every situation
  • standing apart from the children and watching rather than interacting with them
  • relating poorly to adults and preferring the company of children
  • showing no respect for children's rights to privacy or insisting on hugging, touching, or holding a child when the child clearly does not want this type of contact
  • buying gifts or giving money to a child for no apparent reason.

You may not always be able to detect potential problems before enrolling your child. Do not jump to conclusions, but do pay attention to your child. Notice if your child is behaving differently. Watch for these signs in your child:

  • Sudden dislike of or not wanting to go to caregiver.
  • Being unusually interested in things of a sexual nature, acting sexual, or drawing sexual themes.
  • Suddenly not wanting to show or receive affection.
  • Sudden sleep problems (nightmares, fear of dark or being alone).
  • Acting much younger than their age (bedwetting, thumbsucking, clinginess).
  • Unusually nervous or aggressive behavior.
  • Bruises, swollen areas, cuts, or other marks.
  • Injuries that the child or caregiver cannot explain.
  • Anything your child says about physically or sexually abusive or inappropriate behavior.

If you suspect a problem, report your suspicions to your local department of social or human services (protective services division or child protection team). You may remain anonymous or ask that your name not be mentioned.

Written by Donna Warner Manczak, PhD, MPH.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-01-28
Last reviewed: 2009-05-26
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.