One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to trust other people with your child. After all, children who are not adequately looked after by responsible people are vulnerable to injury or abuse. They need to be protected until they have the capability to protect themselves. Until that time comes, it’s also necessary to find ways to give children the opportunity to meet new people and visit new places. Daycare is often the first regular home away from home that children experience and while there are many outstanding daycare facilities, there are just as many that put children at risk.
Daycare centers owe a duty to provide adequate and appropriate supervision for the children that they care for. They also have a duty to protect the children from dangerous conditions about which they knew or should have known through the exercise of reasonable care. Potentially unsafe premises can include countless conditions, such as unsanitary surroundings, age-inappropriate toys, dangerous playground equipment, and improper storage of harmful chemicals.
There are no federal standards for daycare centers. Licensing and regulations vary by state. When looking for childcare, consider more than location, cost, and whether the employees “seem nice.” Ask family and friends for recommendations. And do some research. Some places to start:
Common daycare accident injuries include broken bones, concussions, poisonings, allergic reactions, and asphyxia. Several deaths are reported every year. Some recent examples from around the state demonstrate the variety of forms that negligence at daycare can take:
- A four-year-old Jacksonville girl was allegedly locked in a dirty supply closet where she was bitten by bugs. An earlier report by the Department of Children and Family Services at the same center showed that the owner did not deny hiding five children inside a closet to avoid overcrowding violations.
- In Clermont, a daycare director was arrested for child abuse after a cell phone video appeared to show her repeatedly lifting and dropping a four-year-old boy.
- A West Miami-Dade daycare operator pled guilty in the drowning death of a three-year-old child at her center after he had been left alone for nearly half an hour.
- A Miami-Dade County jury awarded $3 million to a nine-year-old girl who was sexually abused as a preschooler at a Miami daycare by the director’s teenaged son.
- A four-year-old Sunrise boy died in 2012 after he was found unconscious in a hot SUV owned by a daycare operator's daughter. The owner had been cited three times since 2010 for running an over-capacity facility and twice for leaving children in the care of her daughter, who didn't meet the age requirement for supervising a child-care center.
Staffing issues play a big role in proper daycare management. All 50 states require that background checks be done on child care center employees, but there are many types of checks, some less thorough than others. Florida requires only federal and state fingerprint checking and a criminal record check – neither the sex offender registry nor the child abuse and neglect registry must be consulted. Appropriate staffing levels of employees also must be maintained. Provider to child ratios are mandated by law.
Children at daycare should be safe from foreseeable harm and injury. If your child or a loved one has been hurt in a daycare accident, or if you have any questions about this topic, take a moment to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you. As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski Law has helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. We encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.