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Helping Childcare Providers Identify the Signs of Abuse and Neglect

The task of taking care of children all day is enormous.  Childcare providers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all of their students while in their care.  When a childcare worker suspects that a child is being abused or neglected at home, she is often unsure of what to do.  Without proper evidence, she may be hesitant to report the family to social services.  As a mandatory reporter, required by law to report suspicions of abuse or neglect, daycare providers must be aware of the signs of child abuse.

Some children may spend ten to twelve hours a day with their daycare provider.  Often, a strong bond forms between them as she feeds, teaches, and nurtures the young child throughout the day.  She may be one of the first people to notice any changes in a child’s demeanor or behavior.  It is important for childcare providers to know the signs of child abuse and neglect so that they can alert proper authorities if they believe it is necessary.

Some of the signs of abuse that childcare workers may notice is the child has difficulty paying attention during the day.  He may seem preoccupied and lack an adequate attention span.  If he is suddenly withdrawn or anti-social the childcare worker may talk with him to see if he will open up to her and talk about what is going on.  Often abused children may revert to babyish habits like wetting himself or sucking his thumb.  He may not want to go home and seem upset at the end of the day when his parents arrive.

An abusive parent may show signs of misconduct at home as well.  A parent who seems distant or unconcerned with their child’s welfare may be of concern.  Parents who request harsh physical discipline or are aggressive with their children should be watched carefully.  Often, abusive parents will seem bothered by the children and rarely happy with their achievements.  They tend to have a negative attitude about their child and have very high expectations that their child will never be able to attain at their young age.

While the presence of one sign of abuse is not evidence of abuse within a family, the combination of some of these indicators may warrant further investigation.  Once a report is filed, a representative from Child Protective Services will visit the family to determine if there is an issue that needs to be looked into.  Once turned over to the state agency, the social worker will continue the investigation and gather evidence.

Childcare professionals are often an integral part of a family’s support system.  She should offer advice and resources to families that may be struggling.  Nurturing a relationship with the whole family can often help childcare providers get help for struggling families before an incident of child abuse occurs.

If you are a childcare provider or own a daycare, nursery school, or preschool, be sure that your employees are trained to identify the signs of child abuse.  Protecting children is everyone’s responsibility.  Empowering our childcare providers is essential to keeping all children safe and repairing broken families.

"People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing. A leader's job is to help people have vision of their potential." – John Porter

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