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Generally speaking, two types of childcare exist: those based out of a person’s home, and those based out of a center or institution. Choosing between the two types can be difficult, and should be based on the experience you wish the child to have.

Home-based child care may be more nurturing, with fewer children to each caregiver; center-based child care may have more opportunity for social interaction and learning opportunities. Home-based care is also less scrutinized by the government – often times, home-based child care is subject to licensing, and inspections of a home occur sporadically every few years. This results in greater parental pressure to fully understand their child’s experiences in the caregiver’s home.

The child becomes somewhat like a roommate of the caregiver throughout the day, and parents should ask questions in the same vein – is there smoking in the house, are there pets, how much childproofing has the caregiver done, how discipline is handled, whether the child will be transported in a vehicle, how much opportunity is there for the child to come in contact with those outside the home (“field trips”), how much contact will there be inside the home (such as daughters, sons, husbands, and other family members), etc.

The child will essentially live with the caregiver many hours a day, and questioning the living situation and arrangements will help avoid surprises later on. Center-based care may be less personal for your child, though most centers are tightly regulated by the government, and subject to inspection multiple times each year.

Parents should remain vigilant – the higher the ratio of children to adults, the higher the likelihood for neglect and/or negligence. Children may have ample opportunity to interact with same-aged children each day, and may have greater learning resources at their disposal, but keeping track of each individual child becomes more difficult with more children around. Each afternoon or evening should meet the child with questions about their the day – what did they do, who did they play with, what did they learn, etc.

Above all else, reject the assumption that a child would know right, or correct, behavior from wrong behavior, either from other children or adults. Simply listening to your child and continually asking questions is a big step in preventing abuse.

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