It’s known and accepted that, in the normal course of events, sometimes kids will get hurt.
Kids run, kids play, and kids occasionally get hurt—usually not seriously. A skinned knee or elbow, a cut finger, or even a turned ankle, are all part of growing up; they may require some first aid but involve no lasting worry. Most of the time, childhood injuries are no one’s fault.
But injuries that make you question exactly what happened while your child was in the care of another adult are another matter. Suppose you were the parent of an 8-month-old child, and your infant sustained a broken leg while being cared for by a Terre Haute daycare provider. Would you not wonder what happened?
In this case, according to information filed in court, the injury happened during September, 2014, and the daycare owner both failed to seek medical care for the child’s leg and also failed to inform the parents about what happened when they came to get their child. Because of that, a level-6 felony charge of neglect was brought against the owner.
Facts about Childhood and Daycare Fatalities
Unintentional injuries (accidents) are the No. 1 cause of death for children ages 1 through 4. But some of these injuries may not be true accidents. Among researchers and practitioners involved with children, it’s a widespread belief that abuse and neglect fatalities are underreported. What we do know are the following facts, taken from 2015 figures provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
- Children under 3 years of age accounted for nearly three-fourths (74.8 percent) of all abuse and neglect fatalities.
- Children under 1 year of age accounted for nearly one-half (49.4 percent) of all abuse and neglect fatalities.
- Nonparents (other relatives and daycare providers) were liable for 18.7 percent of all childhood abuse and neglect fatalities.
- Nationally, 1,684 children of all ages died at the hands of daycare providers.
- The national figure of 1,684 fatalities represents roughly a 6 percent increase in deaths since 2011.
- In Indiana, there were 56 daycare deaths from abuse and neglect during 2015.
Unlicensed and Illegal Child Care Situations
In Indiana, hundreds of daycare facilities in homes and churches are mostly beyond the reach of the state’s oversight. While many times these unlicensed places can provide good care, lapses do occur. A 22-month-old boy died in 2012 at one such place. He had wandered off from caregivers who allegedly forgot about him for more than an hour. He was found floating in a baptismal pool.
Other tragic outcomes involving daycare centers and providers during 2017 are:
- September, 2017: A 5-month-old infant died at an Indianapolis area illegal daycare from positional asphyxia (a type of suffocation). The mother has filed a wrongful death suit against both the daycare providers and the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA).
- August, 2017: Parents of a 4-month-old child who was given Benadryl and who then died are suing the owner of the unlicensed daycare in Connecticut. The packaging indicates that Benadryl is dangerous to administer to very young children.
- June, 2017: A 5-year-old Arkansas child died after he was left all day in the daycare’s van in his booster seat. According to police, the temperature in the daycare’s parking lot that afternoon was 91 degrees.
Negligence: When Things Go Wrong
Of course, most daycare providers are good people who do their best for our children. And, even at the most watchful places, injuries can occur. But when your child is hurt and you think there’s more to the story than just the normal cut or scrape, you should consider whether the daycare provider might have been negligent. Situations that could be considered demonstrations of negligence include:
- Children lack proper supervision
- Inadequate numbers of staff
- No measures to prevent children from wandering off the premises
- The premises generally are not kept in a safe condition
- Access to clean water and to bathroom facilities are inadequate
- Violations of health statutes and codes exist
- First aid supplies are not available on site
- Generally, staff is not exercising good judgment.
All daycare providers are expected to provide “reasonable care.” All staff and providers should be able to exercise sound judgment and make decisions based on the information available to them. Poor judgment, poor or neglectful supervision, or poor physical facilities can be considered negligence. Intentionally-bad care, intentional neglect, and intentional abuse are legally actionable as well.
Common Daycare Injuries
A number of things can occur in a daycare situation which may or may not be considered negligence. For example:
- Falling objects that injure a child. Children like to climb. If shelving, furniture, tables, or other sizeable objects are not firmly secured, the unthinkable can occur.
- Injuries on the playground. Defective or improperly-secured or constructed playground equipment, as well as inadequate supervision, increase the risks of serious harm such as head injuries and broken bones.
- Injuries caused by another child. If the children were inadequately supervised, your child could be harmed by another child, sustaining preventable injuries.
Factors to Consider When Bringing a Suit
If you believe your child has been neglected or deliberately harmed, you might want to pursue legal action. To bring a suit successfully, a number of aspects concerning the daycare provider must be evaluated. Matters that are frequently considered include:
- The damages (the child’s injuries), and the situation in which they occurred. Not every injury has sufficient grounds of either negligence or intentional harm. Negligence or intentional harm must be provable.
- The legality of the daycare provider. Illegal daycare situations can be riskier when it comes to injuries and deaths.
- Liability insurance. While a provider is not required to have liability insurance, if they do not, it will usually be more difficult to collect on a judgment.
Protecting Your Child
In Indiana, unlicensed does not necessarily mean illegal. An unlicensed daycare provider can legally care for fewer than six children unrelated to them in their home. However, if the provider is unlicensed but clearly caring for six or more unrelated children in their home, the daycare is illegal. In such a situation, consider your daycare decision carefully.
All parents should check out a potential daycare situation or center to the fullest extent by:
- Visiting (more than once if possible)
- Asking questions
- Observing other children at the daycare location
- Checking references.
You can also search for child care and view inspection resources for Indiana online.