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The Parent’s Guide to Childcare Safety

The Lamber Goodnow Legal Team is deeply committed to protecting kids – our hope for a better future depends on it

The Parent’s Guide to Childcare Safety
Ask any parent what their number one priority is, and they will likely say the health and safety of their children. And as family dynamics continue to evolve, fewer than one in three children have a full-time stay at home parent.1 As a result, many working parents are forced to find a form of organized childcare, including day care centers, nurseries, and babysitters. However, how can parents rest assured that their children are in the best, most competent and capable hands?

child-safetyBabysitters

When considering a babysitter who will come to your home and watch your children, there are many concerns that should be addressed; however, safety should be paramount. A survey from the Red Cross found that nearly 30 percent of parents have rejected a potential babysitter because of safety concerns.2

A few fortunate parents have trusted family members who will watch their children. However, most parents have to widen their applicant pool to either friends’ recommendations or strangers. When choosing a babysitter that will keep your children safe, take into account key attributes such as maturity, trustworthiness and responsibility. If the babysitter is a teenager, consider not hiring anyone under 14. Before meeting with the sitter, request references from past employers and check them thoroughly. Additionally, find out if the sitter is trained in CPR, first aid, and infant and toddler safety. If you and your children like a potential sitter you may offer to pay for them to take the course, which can be taken through the American Red Cross.3

Once you have checked the sitter’s background and safety training, it is important to see how the sitter interacts with your children. A good strategy is to hire the sitter for a couple of hours to watch the children, so that you can observe their interactions while you are in the home doing other activities. After the sitter has left, allow some time to pass (a few days or so) and then mention the sitter is coming back to the house to watch the children. Gauge the children’s reactions when they know the sitter is coming, and listen to what they have to say after the sitter has left.

Once you have chosen a sitter, it is important for them to know your expectations and their responsibilities. Important topics to discuss include:

  • Explicit instructions to never leave the children unsupervised
  • Rules for leaving the house, or if leaving isn’t allowed
  • Rules for friends coming over
  • The correct way to discipline the children
  • Ground rules for sleep schedules
  • What food to serve
  • Rules for electronics usage by the children

A list of important phone numbers and contact information should also be left for the sitter, including the location of safety equipment, as well as a list of any allergies the children may have.

Daycare Centers and Family Childcare Homes

An alternative to a personal babysitter is having your children attend a daycare center or family childcare home. One benefit is that, unlike a personal babysitter, daycare centers and family childcare homes that care for more than four children must be certified and licensed by the Office of Child Care Licensing and the Department of Health Services.4 The licensing mandates a certain staff to child ratio, regulated inspections, a thorough background and fingerprint check of staff, a requirement of the facilities statement of services as well as parent rights, and the ability to obtain the facility’s public records.5

Although a childcare facility or family childcare home may be a good option in some cases, it is still important for parents to be proactive in researching the quality and safety of such facilities. Parents should research and visit multiple childcare providers before deciding what is best for their family. Once you call and make an appointment to visit the facility, make sure that you stay at least an hour to observe activities and interactions (between children and their care providers and with one another), check the facility grounds for cleanliness and safety, and ask as many questions as you need to in order to make an informed decision about using their services.

Some important factors to consider when choosing a childcare facility or family childcare home are the qualifications of the directors of the facility, as well as the teachers or childcare providers. For example, does the director or teacher have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field? Additionally, how long have they worked in childcare? As mentioned above, it is also important to make sure that the facility has the correct staff to child ratio.

Cleanliness is also an important issue to consider. Do all the caregivers wash their hands and follow the correct procedures when diapering a child? Furthermore, does the facility keep toxins out of the children’s reach, and do they keep up to date immunizations of each child?

The facility should have a well-documented emergency plan in case of a fire, sickness, or kidnapping, and each employee should be properly trained in CPR, first aid, infant and toddler safety, and giving medication.
Perhaps the most anxiety-inducing aspect of leaving your children with others is the possibility of child abuse. It is imperative that parents make sure all caregivers have had a background check and have been trained in how to prevent child abuse, how to recognize the signs of child abuse, and how to report suspected child abuse. Caregivers should be visible at all times, either by their fellow childcare providers or visiting parents, and ideally should never be left alone with a child. Additionally, parents should be proactive when having discussions with their children about their experiences at the care facility.

Liability

Babysitters, childcare centers, and family childcare homes all owe a high degree of care with respect to the ages of the children, the activities they can engage in, and the employee’s ability to foresee and avoid perils.6 Furthermore, the courts have held that because childcare facilities’ primary duty is to provide supervision, their duty of care is much different than that of a school, whose primary responsibly is education.7 As a result, caregivers open themselves to various forms of liability.

Negligence

If you find that your child was injured under a care facility’s supervision, you may be able to bring a claim of negligent supervision. In order to prove this, you must establish that the person or facility accepted the responsibility of supervising your child, that they failed to provide the supervision, that the injury was caused by the supervisor, and that a reasonable person would have been able to foresee the outcome.8 Once you have established these four elements, any person that has agreed to supervise your child could be held liable, including babysitters, day care providers, schools, daycare facilities and teachers.

Negligence Per Se

Negligence per se means that an act is negligent because it has broken a law.9 Most states have statutes that regulate childcare. Therefore, if a childcare provider was supervising a child and the child was injured as a result of a law being broken, they may be liable under negligence per se.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Res ipsa loquitur is a legal theory that states that the harm suffered would ordinarily not occur without someone’s negligence.10 An example of this would be a parent being told by a childcare supervisor during an afternoon pick-up that their child had an accident and “wet his pants” that day. However, when the parent returns home they find that the child has a broken arm. Although the cause of the broken arm is a mystery, a reasonable person could infer that some type of negligence by the childcare facility was the cause of the child’s broken arm. 

Intentional Acts

In extreme cases, babysitters, childcare centers, and family childcare homes may be held liable for their intentional acts. These include assault, battery, manslaughter and murder. Possible reasons are lack of supervision, anger, frustration or inexperience.

Research has begun to prove that a child’s healthy development depends on positive and safe experiences during their first years of life.11 As more parents continue to enter the workforce, quality of childcare becomes of utmost importance. Choosing a qualified, competent and safe caregiver will directly impact your child’s ability to learn, grow emotionally, mature, and build healthy relationships. If a parent does their research and is diligent when searching for the right caregiver, both the parents and the children will benefit from a positive experience.

 

1
Sarah Jane Glynn, Center for American Progress, Fact Sheet, Child Care, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/labor/news/2012/08/16/11978/fact-sheet-child-care/.

2
Jennifer Geisman, Care.com, Ten Safety Tips for Hiring a Teen Babysitter, https://www.care.com/a/10-safety-tips-for-hiring-a-teen-babysitter-1303250859.

3
Id.

4
Office of Child Care Licensing, A Parent’s Guide to Child Care, http://azdhs.gov/documents/licensing/childcare-facilities/guide.pdf.

5
Id.

6
Matthew Izzi, Legal Match, Liability of Childcare Facility for Injuries to Children, http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/liability-of-childcare-facility-for-injuries-to-children.html.

7
Id.

8
David Goguen, ALLLAW, Caregiver Liability for a Child’s Injury, http://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/personal-injury/caregiver-liability-childs-injury.html.

9
Matthew Izzi, Legal Match, Liability of Childcare Facility for Injuries to Children, http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/liability-of-childcare-facility-for-injuries-to-children.html.

10
Id.

11
National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Childcare, A Parent’s Guide to Choosing Safe and Healthy Childcare, https://aspe.hhs.gov/legacy-page/parents-guide-choosing-safe-and-healthy-child-care-pamphlet-142476.