Child Abuse and Neglect: Prevention and Response

September 13, 2018

Child Care Aware® of America stands alongside families, providers, and the public in our shared commitment to the safety and well-being of children in child care. In 2016, an estimated 676,000[1] children in the United States were victims of neglect or abuse. A small fraction of that total – 2,104 substantiated cases – involved a child care provider. That’s unacceptable and a legitimate cause for concern among families and the general public. Continue reading to meet Amber, a mother of two young children living in the Midwest. She believes her story is a cautionary example of how flaws in how reports of child maltreatment are investigated and substantiated may lead to dismissal of legitimate cases.

It was about 4:00 p.m. when I picked Zoey up from her third day at her new daycare.  She had been with a different provider for two years and never wanted to leave when I picked her up, so I knew something wasn’t right when that day she came running to me almost in tears ready to go home. I asked her teacher how Zoey did that day, but she didn’t look at or acknowledge me. The director was very short (with me) when I asked her the same question.

I took Zoey outside to leave and something in my gut told me to check her over before we left. Her right arm had bruises and scratches all over the top half and I glimpsed a bruise on her left ear. I tried to ask Zoey what happened, but at 2 years old she was too young to tell me. I immediately took her back inside to ask the teacher and the director what happened. They told me that they had no idea and didn’t know where the injuries came from, but that as a new student she hadn’t really interacted with many of the other children. At home, I noticed bruising underneath both armpits and knew that wasn’t normal so I took her to the local children’s hospital. While there, additional bruising in the form of a handprint was noted on her back. Doctors immediately confirmed that her injuries were the result of abuse.

During the abuse investigation that followed, I learned that cameras (in child care settings) are often inadequate because there are blind spots where they do not record.  In the end, no one (at the center) was charged criminally because nothing was noted on cameras and my daughter was too young to interview.

I now have an infant in addition to Zoey. After pulling Zoey from that child care center, we no longer trust anyone other than their father and myself to care for them. I write this message today because I want parents and legislators to know about the dangers of child abuse in child care and to consider measures that can be put in place to prevent it. 


Fortunately, there are some measures in place designed to help prevent child abuse and neglect. The Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) requires providers who serve children that receive subsidies to get training on abuse and neglect. One area addressed in that training is the status of providers as mandated reporters. According to federal law, providers who suspect that one of their staff members or colleagues is abusing a child must report it. If they don’t, they can be held legally liable.

Parents who feel strongly about this issue can talk with their state legislators and advocate for better training and outreach to all providers.

In addition, Child Care Aware® of America has tools available to help families locate safe, high quality child care settings for their children.  We have suggested steps families can take before enrolling their children in child care that may prevent potential child abuse and neglect.  And, if you do suspect that child abuse and neglect has occurred in a child care setting, we have the contacts you need to report it. 


Check child care monitoring and inspection reports - A helpful tool for choosing a safe child care program is to check our State by State Resource Map to find child care and review reports on providers before enrollment or at any time while your child is enrolled.

Get informed - Our Families section provides information and resources to help families select a quality child care program, including checklists with questions to ask a provider that will help evaluate their credentials, safety, and quality before making a decision.


Trust your gut - Explore alternatives - Child Care Resource & Referral agencies in communities across the nation can help parents find alternative child care options and discuss licensing requirements so parents can know what standards of health and safety to which a provider should conform.

Make a report - If child abuse and neglect is suspected, our State by State Resource Map has the phone number and website for each state to report abuse and neglect.


Join the Movement - The 2018-2019 Congressional budget allows $5.8 billion in new child care investments. The $2.4 billion increase in fiscal year 2018 will help states comply with stronger health and safety requirements, background checks, and consumer education options that give families information about child care providers, including those who’ve had substantiated child abuse and neglect violations.  Join the Child Care Works movement to advocate for Congress to continue these investments in next year’s federal budget!

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Topics: Professional Development, Parenting

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