Signs of Child Abuse You Should ALWAYS Watch Out For
We’ve all been there. Sitting in our pajamas after a long day of work, watching the evening news…when we hear a real horror story. A child has been abused, and it was caught on a nanny cam. A reporter is there to interview a neighbor, and the neighbor’s reply is always something along the lines of “Oh my gosh, she was so sweet; I would never have suspected!”
We’ve all seen it happen, live on national television, and as moms, we’re always shocked, in awe, that another human being is capable of such an atrocity…and to a child, no less!
Still, the fact remains: whenever you ask someone else to watch your kids, you literally place your kids’ lives in those hands.
Before you picked your daycare center, you did the research, read the reviews, checked the state website that licenses childcare facilities, asked other parents what they thought, and spent time there to see if the kids were happy and learning. But, you still have to trust that they’ve done background checks on all employees, that they’re paying attention to everything that goes on at the facility, that they’re removing hazards, and that they’re safeguarding your children in ways only experienced childcare providers could.
But sometimes, they don’t.
Is it just us, or is daycare abuse happening across the United States at an alarming rate? Just have a look at the latest headlines: former daycare worker charged with aggravated assault; daycare worker force-fed kids, causing vomiting; daycare staff worker allowed children to throw rocks at 3-year-old for “discipline”; and the list goes on…
The worst part? Those were all reported in just May 2018!
Let’s face it—nobody wants to think about child abuse. But it’s vitally important that we not only think about it, but be on the lookout for it—all the time. As moms, it’s our duty.
So. What do you need to know?
Warning Signs of Child Abuse
Since abuse generally comes in five main types (physical, sexual, psychological, medical, neglect), there is a wide spectrum of warning signs. Watch closely and investigate if your young child…
- Has changes in behavior. You know your child best. Has your normally outgoing daughter suddenly becomes withdrawn and shy? Has your son lost interest in playing outside on the grass, which he normally loves to do? Unusual behavior or a loss of interest in favorite activities is a big clue that something is wrong.
- Acts out inappropriately. This can include hitting, biting, or showing defiance in normal situations. It can also include acting out sexual motions with toys/objects, or showing an unusual interest in sexual behaviors. It can also include cruelty to animals, because when some children are abused, they in turn mistreat smaller, weaker creatures.
- Is constantly watchful and on edge. Children learn fear easily, and will be constantly on guard for more bad things to happen. Flinching, or being upset by loud noises or raised voices, could indicate that abuse has taken place.
- Becomes withdrawn, passive, or secretive. Often, an abuser will manipulate his or her victims, insisting that they keep what happened “a secret,” or that they “deserved it” because they were bad, and that “Mommy will be angry if she finds out.” It’s disgusting.
- Has unexplained aches or pains, such as headaches or stomachaches. Emotional trauma can present itself with physical responses, especially if the child is too young to fully understand or explain what’s going on.
- Shows reluctance to be left at daycare. Your child, who never cries when being left at daycare, suddenly starts to. Or, maybe your child will suddenly go silent and non-resistant in front of daycare staff. Either way, it might be bad news, and you should take note of it.
- Starts regressing in development. Children who have learned to walk may start crawling again, or they may start to soil themselves, even though they’ve already been potty-trained.
- Can’t sleep or suffers sleep-related problems. This may include bed-wetting, a sudden fear of the dark, nightmares, or other sleep disturbances. Since abuse affects the whole body, it can sink into the unconscious and cause psychological damage.
- Has unexplained marks or bruises. An older child may layer clothes or attempt to hide the marks, so bath-time is a good time to look for signs of physical abuse without alarming the child. Be sure to inspect your younger children when you pick them up, and ask for explanations for any injuries you see. If the explanation doesn’t sound good enough, don’t let the matter drop there.
- Has difficulty sitting or walking, or unexplained soreness around the genitals or mouth. This can include swelling and bleeding.
- Tells you about potentially abusive behavior at daycare. Did your son’s teacher deny him meals for the day? Was your daughter taped to a chair until she “calmed down”? There are many things that our children tell us, and we need to listen carefully to hear which things are cause for alarm.
If your child shows one or more of these warning signs, it does not necessarily mean abuse is going on. There are other things that can cause bruises, fear of loud noises, detachment, etc. The important thing is finding out why your child is acting the way he or she is, and knowing what officially counts as “abuse” in an Arizona childcare facility.
What Daycares Are NOT Allowed to Do
When you confront your child’s daycare provider, they might just say, “It’s not a big deal—your child was being naughty, and I had to discipline.” Let’s be clear about what kind of discipline is allowed in a daycare. Arizona’s Bureau of Child Care Licensing says these child care providers CANNOT:
- Discipline your child in a way that could cause harm to his or her health, safety, or welfare.
- Use corporal punishment.
- Use abusive language.
- Discipline your child by withholding or interfering with eating, napping, toileting (including not changing diapers), receiving medication, or by using mechanical restraint.
- Allow your child to be “disciplined” by another child.
By Arizona law, child abuse is defined as “Any recent act or failure to act…which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
If You Suspect Abuse at Your Daycare, Take Action
Most daycare facilities provide unique and wonderful social opportunities for kids, and we celebrate the caregivers who love, nurture, and protect our children.
But we must face that fact that daycare also provides perfect strangers with the opportunity to put their hands on a child, and we’re not there to do anything about it. Child abuse that goes on at a daycare facility is a gross violation of trust, a legal breach of contract, and every other kind of sickening betrayal one can think of. If you have questions about your own situation, please don’t be afraid to reach out to our Phoenix daycare abuse lawyers at The Husband and Wife Law Team.
In our next article, we’ll talk about what you actions you should take if you suspect child abuse. Stay tuned!