As a parent, you put a lot of time, thought, and effort into selecting the best possible daycare for your child. Maybe you went on tours of several locations or dealt with waiting lists before you settled on what you thought was the right daycare provider. Even after all that, you might have still missed the signs of a negligent daycare.
Daycare Responsibilities in Kentucky
Daycares are supposed to provide safe, educational environments for young children, often while their parents are at work. One of the first steps a daycare can take toward creating this environment is by hiring the right staff. According to Kentucky state regulations, all staff members must undergo complete background checks and cannot be left alone with children until the process is completed. Daycare workers must also be at least 18 years old.
Kentucky regulations also require staff to maintain certain child-to-adult ratios. These ratios are:
- 5:1 for babies age six weeks and up
- 6:1 for toddlers
- 10:1 for 2-3 years of age
- 12:1 for 3-4 years of age
- 14:1 for 4-5 years of age
- 15:1 for 5-7 years of age
The above ratios only apply to daycare centers. Elementary schools maintain different ratios, so a 5-year-old kindergarten student might be in a class of 24 with just one teacher but attend an after school daycare where the ratio is 15:1. Ratio regulations also vary for home-based daycare providers.
The point of maintaining these ratios is to make sure that daycare providers can adequately supervise children at all times. This means that the children must be within their caregivers’ visual and auditory range. Caregivers are not allowed to use things like baby or video monitors to extend this range but should instead be physically present with the kids.
Signs of a Negligent Daycare
An early warning sign that a daycare might be acting negligently is if its classrooms are frequently out of ratio.
If your child’s daycare is equipped with cameras in each classroom, it is not a good sign. Nor is it a good sign if they are frequently out of order or under maintenance. Daycare administrators could be using this tactic to conceal or cover up negligence, abuse, or other acts of child harm.
Unfortunately, some of the most startling signs of daycare negligence or abuse may show up in your own child. Depending on their age, they might not be able to tell you what’s happening or know quite how to put it into words. Consider some of the following non-verbal indications that your child could be neglected at daycare:
- Excessively wet, dirty, or unchanged diapers
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, or broken bones in excess of normal childhood injuries
- Sudden and unexplained aggressive behavior
- Unusually shy or withdrawn behavior
- Unexplained sleep disturbances after they were previously sleeping well
- Flinching at others’ sudden movements or loud noises
- Fearful and clingy behavior
- Unexplained displays of anxiety
- An aversion to attending daycare
- An age-inappropriate knowledge of sexual behavior
- Regression to things like thumb sucking and bedwetting
Seeing these signs and symptoms manifesting in your child can be heartbreaking. If you suspect any type of neglect, abuse, or wrongdoing at your child’s daycare, do not send them back there and seek necessary medical care as soon as possible. Depending on your child’s age and condition, it may also be helpful to seek the care of a child psychologist.
Examples of Daycare Neglect and Abuse
Daycare workers have a duty of care to the children entrusted to them. Neglect occurs when they fail to fulfill their caregiving duties. Caregivers may do this by:
- Not changing soiled diapers
- Failing to feed children at meal or snack times or forgetting to provide them with water
- Not properly supervising children on the playground
- Leaving the room without keeping the proper ratio
- Purposefully exceeding Kentucky’s two-hour limit on rest time for preschool children
- Placing loose bedding, pillows, or toys in baby cribs
Both physical and sexual abuse can also occur in a daycare setting. In a daycare setting, sexual abuse is the sexual exploitation or assault of a child by a caregiver or other daycare worker. Physical abuse is any infliction of injury not caused by accidental means. It may include hitting, shoving, biting, hair pulling, or the infliction of other physical injuries.
What About Liability Waivers?
Most daycares require parents to sign liability waivers. Now that you and your child have lived through the trauma of daycare negligence, you might wonder whether that little piece of paper truly means that the facility is not responsible for anything.
Regardless of what you may have signed, a daycare facility cannot waive its own liability in injury or illness cases involving neglect or abuse. Similarly, daycares cannot require parents to waive their rights to sue over a child’s injury. The vast majority of courts will invalidate clauses like these in liability waivers.
Suing a Daycare for Negligence
You have the right to pursue a premises liability lawsuit against your child’s daycare center if they were the victim of neglect. Remember, you can do this even if you initially signed a liability waiver.
Before you can prove that your child’s daycare was negligent, you’ll have to first prove that the facility and its workers had a duty of care toward your child and that they breached their duty. There are a few routes you can take when proving that a daycare breached its duty of care, including showing that it:
- Maintained premises that were not safe or age-appropriate
- Did not provide your child with basic necessities, including water, food, or even medication
- Did not maintain a proper adult-to-child ratio or had improper supervision practices
- Did not adequately screen or train its employees
If your child was the victim of abuse rather than daycare neglect, you can pursue an intentional tort lawsuit instead. These lawsuits are more appropriate for assault and child abuse cases rather than neglect.
There are few things in life more horrifying than realizing that your child was in the care of a negligent daycare. At Thomas Law Offices, we understand just how sensitive this topic can be. When you contact us for a free case evaluation, you’ll have the opportunity to talk with a Louisville premises liability attorney who can help walk you through your options.