Understanding Child Sex Abuse at Daycare Facilities and Preschools

Parents spend a lot of time teaching their children about the dangers posed by strangers. Sadly, when it comes to child sex abuse, research shows the real danger often lurks much closer to home.

According to statistics cited by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), more than 63,000 reported cases of child sex abuse are substantiated each year and, in 93 percent of those cases, the perpetrator was someone the child knew and trusted. Often, this person is a teacher, aide, or other caregiver.

child sex abuse at daycare and preschoolFor parents, the idea that their beloved little one could be violated and victimized by the very people entrusted with their care and safety can be almost too much to bear. Unfortunately, child sex abuse is shockingly common in daycare centers, preschools, and other childcare facilities. Parents who've discovered abuse at their child's daycare or preschool often ask themselves, “How could something like this happen?”

At the Accident and Injury Law Group, our knowledgeable and experienced attorneys understand this is a difficult and confusing time for your family—and we're here to help. If your child was sexually abused at a daycare or preschool, here's what you need to know.

The Importance of Screening Childcare Employees

Daycares and preschools licensed with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) are required to screen prospective employees during the hiring process to ensure they have the appropriate clearances to work with children. Required clearances include:

  • Report of criminal history from the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP)
  • Child Abuse History Clearance from Pennsylvania DHS
  • Fingerprint-based federal criminal history submitted through the PSP or its authorized agent, the FBI

While proper employee screening practices can't prevent every instance of child sex abuse, they serve as a valuable check against unqualified, dangerous individuals who seek careers working with vulnerable children.

Unfortunately, individuals who can't pass the background checks to obtain the appropriate clearances are often still able to find work in the childcare industry, thanks to unlicensed daycares and preschools. Not only are these under-the-radar facilities able to operate without regard to PSP and Pennsylvania DHS regulations, their hiring processes are usually woefully inadequate. In many cases, these unlicensed facilities just hire “warm bodies” who will show up. As a result, the risk of child molestation is often much higher in unlicensed childcare facilities.

Grooming Child Victims at Daycare Centers and Preschools

Research indicates perpetrators “groom” their victims in order to isolate them from others and earn their trust. In a daycare or preschool setting, grooming behaviors can include paying special attention to a child; lavishing them with excessive compliments and praise; and giving frequent gifts for no reason. Perpetrators may take a child under their wing and become their confidant, or use tactics such as guilt, shame, and fear to intimidate victims into saying silent. Sadly, victims of abuse at daycare centers and preschools are especially vulnerable, as they may be too young to communicate their abuse.

By design, many grooming behaviors may seem perfectly harmless. However, when coupled with any of the following warning signs your child may display, they may be an indication of child sex abuse:

  • Sudden interest in sex and genitalia
  • Acting out age-inappropriate sexual scenarios during play
  • Sudden development of mood swings, temper tantrums, and other erratic behavior
  • Torn or blood-stained clothing
  • Genital area trauma
  • Difficulty sitting, standing, or walking
  • Development of a sexually-transmitted infection
  • Nightmares or night terrors
  • Regression to bedwetting
  • Refusal to return to daycare or preschool
  • Fear of a particular person at the daycare or preschool

Consult a Knowledgeable and Compassionate Attorney

Child sex abuse can have long-lasting, serious effects on victims. While we can't turn back the clock and prevent your child's abuse, we can help you fight for the compensation you need to ensure your child has care necessary to heal. Contact us today to request an appointment for a free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case with a member of our legal team.