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Never put your child in a day care facility or home that does not have an open-door policy for parents. You should not have to call first, and no areas that children have access to should be off limits to you.
Because of a few high-profile cases, many parents fear their children will be sexually abused by a day care provider; yet studies show that day care is relatively safe. If you've followed the advice in this article about choosing a quality day care program, that should ease your mind, but you should also know the signs to look for in the rare cases where children are physically or sexually abused.
Always listen to your kids and take them seriously if they tell you about something at day care that makes them uncomfortable. With kids who are not talking yet, or who seem reluctant to talk, you'll have to watch for other cues.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says parents should be alert to these indicators of abuse:
- Changes in behavior or extreme mood swings.
- Changes in bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of going to bed, or other sleep disturbances.
- Acting out inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters.
- Sudden acting out of feelings, or aggressive or rebellious behavior.
- Regression to infantile behavior or clinging.
- School problems, behavior problems.
- Changes in toilet-training habits.
- Fear of certain places, people, or activities; an excessive fear of going to the day care center.
Choosing a Responsible Provider
Many day care centers conduct background checks on potential employees to see if they have criminal records. Screening also can turn up substance abuse or a history of emotional instability. Ask the center director how it screens prospective day care providers. Ask also about others who may have contact with your child, such as janitors or bus drivers.
In family day care, it's less likely that you'll have this information. The majority of these homes are not licensed so you have to rely more on the provider's references, including the recommendations you receive from people you know, such as friends or neighbors.
You also need to know who besides the family day care provider will come into contact with your child. Some abuse cases have involved relatives, such as the fathers or sons of providers.