It can happen in the blink of an eye. One minute your toddler or preschooler is by your side. The next minute, she is gone.
Whether you have a child who regularly wanders away or it has never happened before, you are always alert to the possibility that your child could wander away. You also expect your child’s daycare to recognize this danger and to know where your child is at all times.
Why Young Kids Wander
Toddlers and preschoolers wander away from adults for a variety of reasons, such as to:
- Have fun
- Try to go to one of their favorite places
- Express their anger
- Avoid what they are being asked to do
- Test boundaries
Sometimes a child wanders by accident. They may be daydreaming, or they may not understand the directions and lose their caregivers.
Some children have conditions that make wandering more likely. For example, a 2012 study published in the journal Pediatrics found children with autism may be more likely than neurotypical children to wander.
What Happens When a Child Wanders
Often—after a terrifying few minutes—the child is found without physical harm. However, some children are not so lucky. A child who wanders from daycare supervision could:
- Get lost
- Be abducted
- Be hit by a car
- Trip and fall
Serious injuries such as broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and fatalities could result. It is impossible to foresee all of the ways that a young child could get hurt, but it is possible to prevent the wandering from happening.
How Daycares Can Prevent Wandering
Daycares can prevent wandering by:
- Providing adequate supervision. One of the most fundamental responsibilities of a daycare is to supervise children to prevent them from getting hurt or lost. Daycare staff must provide reasonable supervision at all times.
- Having enough staff. Daycare must, at least, meet the minimum staffing requirements for the age of the children. However, daycares must also employ additional staff if it is necessary to keep the children reasonably safe.
- Having proper procedures in place. This could include, for example, counting children at regular intervals and having a staff member standing near the playground gate.
- Properly training staff. Staff must know how to supervise children, how to prevent wandering, and what to do if a child is missing.
- Having locks and alarms in appropriate places. Some doors may need to be locked, security cameras may need to be in place, and doors may ring or make another noise when opened to alert staff that someone is coming or going.
Additionally, daycares should recognize what triggers children to wander if they have done so before, and daycares can take special precautions to keep these kids safe.
What to Do if Your Child Wandered From a Texas Daycare
If your child was not hurt, then you likely want to choose a new daycare or, at the very least, talk to the current daycare director to make sure that there are policies, procedures, and sufficient staffing in place to prevent future wandering.
If your child was hurt by wandering from daycare, then you also want to make sure that you have a safe daycare plan in place for when your child is ready to return to daycare, but you also need to take additional steps to protect your child’s recovery. Specifically, you should:
- Get your child medical care. Your child may not be able to tell you exactly what happened while she was not under adult supervision or if she is hurt. Accordingly, you want to make sure that a healthcare provider examines her to identify and treat any potential problems.
- Request an incident report. The daycare should complete an incident report about your child’s wandering.
- Talk to a Texas daycare injury attorney. An attorney can explain your child’s rights to you and help you secure your child’s fair recovery.
We recognize that it is often overwhelming to choose a safe daycare and to know what to do after your child is hurt at daycare. We want to make these things as easy as possible for Texas parents. Accordingly, we encourage you to download a free copy of our guide, A Five-Step Guide for Parents Dealing With a Daycare Injury, then call us directly with any questions.