Abuse and Neglect

Abuse and neglect are some of the most difficult issues that child care providers face. Your responsibility to the children in your care (as well as state and federal law) requires you to document the situation in the child's file with a written description of what you observed and the dates, and to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the Department of Social Services in your state. If the child is old enough to talk, you may wish to ask him "Can you tell me about this?" (for a bruise, burn, or other physical mark). You should not show alarm, disgust, or anger — the child may believe you are upset with him, and not share information with you.

If you have reason to believe a child has suffered harm in the parents' care, you should follow the law in every respect, but also make an effort to communicate with the parents if it will not result in further harm to the child. If a child appears to be neglected, talk to the parent about how a child needs to be properly fed, clothed, bathed, and kept clean and safe. Sometimes a parent may need information on parenting, or may need help due to circumstances beyond control, such as severe illness in the family, or poverty due to job loss or divorce.

If you see signs of abuse, again, ask the parent about what you have seen, unless you think the parent will punish or harm the child for "telling." If the parent has a reasonable explanation (which is consistent both with the physical evidence on the child and with the child's behavior), it might have been a real accident and not abuse. However, any child who consistently shows up with burns, bruises, breaks, fractures, or other serious injuries should have his or her case investigated to prevent further injury to the child.

Page last updated: Aug 26, 2013