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Child Care: Make Sure Your Child Is Safe From Abuse



  • Do research ahead of time to make sure the people who take care of your child are trustworthy.
  • Make surprise visits and pay attention to your child’s words and behavior once he is in child care.
  • If you suspect a problem, remove your child and call your local department of social or human services.


How can I help prevent problems?

Most people who provide child care are good people who really like children. But there are some who are unfit to care for children. Child abusers are most often family members, friends, and people you know, rather than strangers.

To help prevent problems and make sure that your child is safe from child abuse:

  • Find out who will take care of your child.
  • Make surprise visits at different times of the day.
  • You may want to volunteer to help with special events, read a book, tell a story, or share family traditions. Join parent committees or advisory boards for the child care center.
  • If your child is in a center with several caregivers, make sure that they can be seen by others at all times. This keeps a child from being alone with one person.
  • Check the center’s discipline policy. Make sure all caregivers are trained in how to handle temper tantrums, conflicts, and outbursts.
  • Make sure that the caregiver or center is licensed by the state. (This does not always mean that it is safe.)
  • Check whether the home or center has had any complaints. Talk with other parents whose children are cared for there.
  • Always ask for references.
  • Make sure that all caregivers have gone through a background check.
  • Ask if all caregivers have been trained in how to spot and prevent child abuse.
  • Let all caregivers know that your child does not keep secrets from you.

What are the warning signs?

Watch for these signs that someone may abuse a child:

  • Refuses to give you the names and numbers of other parents who have children in the child care center.
  • Doesn’t answer questions or give you details about your child’s day.
  • Does not want surprise visits.
  • Yells or screams at children.
  • Grabs or jerks children.
  • Does not let a child speak.
  • Stands apart from the children and watches them, rather than talking or playing with them.
  • Does not relate well to adults and only wants to be with the children.
  • Shows no respect for children's rights to privacy.
  • Hugs, touches, or holds a child who clearly does not want this type of contact.
  • Buys gifts or gives money to a child for no reason.

How should I prepare my child?

  • Teach your child the names of body parts, including the name of the genitals. Let your child know that he can talk about genitals with you.
  • Talk with your child about unwanted, confusing, or secret touches. Teach your child to tell you if anyone asks him to do anything that makes him feel “funny”, “yucky”, or “icky inside”.
  • Let your child know that he can say "no" to anyone who touches him in a way he does not like.
  • Let your child know that you want to keep him safe and that he should not keep secrets from you. Teach him to tell you if someone hurts him, asks him to keep a secret, or makes him feel bad.

You may not always be able to spot problems before your child starts in child care. Pay attention to your child. Listen to what your child says about touching, secrets, or things that scare him. Notice if your child changes the way he acts. Watch for these signs in your child:

  • Sudden dislike of or not wanting to go to child care.
  • Being very interested in sex, acting sexual, or drawing sexual pictures.
  • Suddenly not wanting to hug or be touched.
  • Changes in eating habits or loss of appetite.
  • Sudden sleep problems such as nightmares, fear of the dark or fear of being alone.
  • Acting much younger than his age, such as wetting the bed, sucking his thumb, or being clingy.
  • Having stomach pains, headaches, or other unexplained complaints.
  • Being moody, cruel, withdrawn, nervous or being a bully.
  • Unexplained bruises, swollen areas, burns, cuts, or other marks.
  • Acting afraid of adults without reason.

If you suspect a problem, remove your child from the daycare center and call your local department of social or human services. You may ask that your name not be used.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2017-09-25
Last reviewed: 2017-09-25
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.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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