Although parents work hard to find safe and nurturing daycare facilities for their children, there is always a possibility of harm and injury. Injuries can happen when daycare staff lacks necessary training, neglects the child, or when facilities are unsafe. Parents need to be able to trust daycare staff with the incredible responsibility of caring for their child each day. When daycare staff fail this responsibility, the results can be devastating.
Over 8 million kids, or 40% of all children under the age of five, are cared for by someone other than their parents for part of the week. Daycare can take place at centers or at regulated or unregulated in-home daycares. Early childhood care in the United States is notoriously substandard; a 2007 study found that 80% of daycare centers and homes operate at “fair” or “poor” standards. Death rates for babies are seven times higher in home settings than in daycare centers with the most common causes of death being drowning, violence, and fire.
Accidents can happen at daycares when children are left unsupervised with dangerous toys or near chemicals or weapons. They can happen when babies are left in unsafe positions, or when the daycare facilities create hazardous conditions. Injuries can include broken bones, poisonings, allergic reactions, concussions, or asphyxia.
Daycare injuries can also be fatal. Newspapers recently reported the death of a 5-month-old boy at an in-home daycare. This child's death is the 28th child death at a daycare facility in 2015 in Texas. Last fall the New York Times published a devastating account of a mother whose three-month-old son died on the first day of daycare.
Knowing your state's requirements for worker qualifications in daycares and provider to child ratios is important. In Maryland, daycare staff usually need to be at least 19 years old and must have some basic qualification like college experience in early childhood education, training hours, or certification from the State Department of Education. In Maryland, there is a required provider to child ratio of 1:3 for infants to one-year-olds, 1:6 for 2-year-olds, and 1:10 for preschool age. These qualifications will change by state.
Parents can also look out for certain warning signs of a dangerous daycare home or facility. These include:
- Unlicensed daycare—Daycare providers may not have licenses for a variety of innocent reasons (like they have their own children in the house) but placing your child in a licensed daycare assures a certain level of heath and safety standards.
- Underqualified staff—Talk to the staff, do they have experience or certifications?
- Dirty or dangerous conditions
- Too many children—Check the child to staff ratio
- Poor communication —Daycares should provide open communication with parents about their children
- High turnover in staff or children—Does the staff change every few months? Do children spend less than a year at the facility? These are warning signs of a bad daycare
If your child does suffer an injury at a daycare, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.