Top 3 Bad Daycare Center Red Flags Parents Should Watch Out For
According to the latest findings from the Texas Health and Human Services, 848 Texas children were seriously injured while at licensed childcare centers in 2022. Tragically, four children died as a result of their injuries, as per another report by the state. That report shows the state conducted 2,070 investigations into incidents of abuse or neglect in licensed child care centers in 2022 alone. And those are just the incidents that were reported.
While this information is scary for many parents who rely on childcare help while they work and provide for their families, there are signs to watch out for when choosing a daycare center. Here, our Texas daycare injury lawyers at The Button Law Firm reveal the top three red flags of bad daycare centers. We have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly firsthand and know the clues that may indicate your child is in an unsafe environment. In addition to these red flags, we provide a list of free resources at the end of this article to help you find a safe daycare center for your child and prevent a little one from becoming a statistic.
Red Flag 1: Understaffing
A vast majority of injuries at a daycare center are easily preventable when children are adequately supervised. The state of Texas recognizes this and mandates child-to-caregiver ratios as part of the state’s childcare minimum standards that are meant to keep children safe. However, working with a classroom full of young children all day requires special qualities in a caregiver. This demanding role means that daycares often have high employee turnover rates, and jobs can be difficult to fill.
Daycare understaffing means that the child-to-caregiver ratios can be thrown off to unsafe levels, making it more difficult, even impossible, for assigned caregivers to properly supervise and safely care for all of the children in a classroom. Curious children can easily slip through the cracks by being left outside on a playground after recess time or even wander away from a daycare classroom unnoticed due to understaffing.
We have seen instances where overwhelmed daycare employees with a large roster of young children turn to drugging kids with Benadryl to keep them calm or even put them to sleep, thus making their jobs easier.
In addition, when children are being transported from a school to a daycare, understaffing can lead to incidents where children are locked in a hot daycare van. Multitasking caregivers may skip important safety measures like performing multiple headcounts while kids are entering and exiting the vehicle. These preventable incidents can easily turn deadly, especially on hot Texas days.
Lastly, understaffing at a Texas daycare is a red flag because it signals that the daycare is desperate for new employees. In some of the daycare injury cases that we have worked on, the daycare center skipped crucial steps such as properly vetting employees by running background checks or placing new employees in a classroom without adequate training or supervision from the daycare director. These unqualified workers are not knowledgeable about the many facets of working with children or experienced enough to foresee potential safety dangers, increasing the likelihood that children can be injured on their watch.
Red Flag 2: The Daycare Doesn’t Take Responsibility
Texas parents place a great amount of trust in daycare centers. Leaving a child in their care is not easy, but there is an expectation of honesty and accountability from the center, especially for any negative incidents involving your child.
A big red flag—that is also a parent’s worst nightmare—is when a child returns home from a day at a child care facility with an unknown injury. It can lead to questions like, “If the daycare center let my child come home with this injury, what is really happening to my child in daycare?” The state of Texas’ minimum standards requires all daycare centers to inform parents of any injuries their child experiences while under the daycare’s watch, no matter how big or small the injury is. Acknowledging the negative incidents are not only required by law but can also help protect other children by introducing preventative tactics for the future.
We have seen time and time again that negligent daycare owners and caregivers have downplayed what truly happened to a child in order to protect themselves and their business. They will either blame an incident on another child or just dismiss it as “kids being kids.” Again, this is a red flag because, even with that excuse, it signals the child was not being properly supervised when they were injured.
In instances when infants or young toddlers are still developing their verbal communication skills, these unsafe daycare centers hope that the child is unable to express their pain through words or explicitly tell their parents what happened. Instead, parents are left to try to fill in the blanks when a child is excessively crying or holding a hurt arm.
With innovations in technology, parents are able to use daycare cameras that provide virtual access, which allows them to be able to peek in on their children during the workday and give them peace of mind. On the flip side, these same cameras can be helpful in revealing events in a classroom and shed light on when a Texas daycare center or its workers failed to take responsibility for an incident.
Red Flag 3: Your Child’s Reactions
The last red flag may surprise you, but it is the most telling: a child’s reactions or behaviors. When a child is physically or sexually abused, daycare workers may threaten them if they tell a parent. The fear and anxiety from the scare tactic, along with the trauma from the incident, can have an immense psychological impact on a child. This can be reflected in their temperament or behavior. Sadly, more than 450 children were sexually abused in Texas daycares over a 10-year period leading up to 2018, according to an Austin American-Statesman investigation. Also, a study revealed that 93% of children know their abuser, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). The most vulnerable children to this kind of abuse are those between the ages of 7 and 13 years old, according to the child abuse nonprofit Darkness to Light.
Parents know their child best, and know what behaviors are and aren’t normal. Here are some common signs that signal your child is in an unsafe environment at a Texas daycare center:
- Anxiety or fear about daycare. A child who is being sexually abused at daycare might fake an illness to get out of going or express anxiety or fear about being dropped off at daycare. If this seems to be a recurring pattern, it could mean abuse has occurred.
- Changes in mood, including signs of depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), by becoming hyperfocused on their appearance or toys to the point that it interferes with daily activities or causes the child significant stress when the behaviors are not expressed.
- Exhibiting signs of fear or throwing tantrums when left alone with a certain person or during physical contact such as hugs, holding hands to cross a street, or other platonic scenarios.
- Recurring nightmares. When your child suddenly starts having bad dreams or difficulty sleeping, this might mean something is happening at daycare.
- Sudden changes in behavior. Young children, in particular, often start to act out when they are experiencing abuse. If your normally even-tempered child suddenly starts to show aggressive behavior, this could mean there is daycare abuse. Some children will regress (for example, a child who is potty trained might suddenly start wetting or soiling their pants). Children who are abused may also exhibit symptoms of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Unusual interest in sexual matters. Often children who have experienced sexual abuse will start to act out inappropriate sexual behavior. Some children might have knowledge about sexual matters well beyond what they should know at a certain age.
Resources to Find a Safe Daycare Center in Texas
As we have already shared, our Texas daycare injury attorneys have seen it all when it comes to childcare facilities that disregard child safety standards. That is why we have created several free resources to help you and your family find a safe daycare for your child:
- 10 Tips for Finding a Safe Daycare Guide
- Eight Questions Parents Should Ask When Looking for a Daycare
- How Online Reviews Can Help You Find the Right Daycare for Your Child Video
- Choosing the Right Daycare for Your Child with Disabilities Video
- Choosing a Daycare After Maternity or Paternity Leave Video
We also offer a library of free articles to educate parents about daycare safety issues, negligence topics, and other important matters regarding the protection of children.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Texas Daycare Injury Lawyers
Our team of experienced and compassionate daycare injury attorneys at The Button Law Firm is dedicated to advocating for you and your family if your child is seriously hurt, neglected, or abused while in the care of a Texas daycare facility. With attorneys in Dallas, Houston, and Midland, we are ready to listen, fight for your family, and help your family move forward. Our attorneys at The Button Law Firm are recognized on the prestigious Texas Super Lawyers list, and we can help guide you after a traumatizing incident involving your child. We work on contingency, meaning we don’t charge you or collect any upfront fees to get started on your case. Call us at 214-699-4409 or fill out a contact form for a free consultation.