Sexual Abuse in Daycare: What to Do If My Child Was Sexually Abused?

By January 15, 2019 Blog
what to do if my child was sexually abused at daycare, sexual abuse in daycare

As parents, we trust that our children will receive the best possible care in our stead. By law, our children are entitled to adequate supervision and protection from abuse. When the possibility of abuse comes to light, you may be unsure where to turn. If your child was sexually abused at daycare, there are many courses of actions to take.

Filing a civil lawsuit for child sexual abuse in California is one possibility you might explore for holding the abuser accountable and recovering compensation related to your case. If you’re considering filing a lawsuit, what follows is an explanation of your legal options and how to make sure all parties involved are held responsible for the abuse.

What to Do If My Child Was Sexually Abuse at Daycare?

Step 1: Seek Help for Your Child (and Yourself)

Your child’s pediatrician is an important first stop for a medical examination and a referral to pediatric mental health counselors. You can also contact the National Sexual Abuse Hotline at 800-656-HOPE(4673) to learn which local resources are available to your child. Sexual abuse counselors say it’s most important that your child knows you love them and that what happened to them is not their fault.

One study of parents whose children endured daycare sexual abuse found that, four years later, one-third reported high levels of PTSD intrusive symptoms (such as flashbacks, nightmares, troublesome memories, or feelings of distress) and one-fourth had PTSD avoidance symptoms (such as drug or alcohol use, avoiding certain people or places, or loss of interest in life). So it’s important that you seek self-care for yourself as well. Keep a cadre of loved ones close, set aside time for pursuits that do not revolve around dealing with the abuse, eat healthy, exercise, and consult with a mental health counselor one-on-one. There is no “right” way to react. Taking care of yourself helps maintain a healthy healing environment for your child.

Step 2: Report the Crime to the Authorities

As soon as you can, file a police report. The National Child Abuse Hotline has volunteers trained to coach you through properly reporting a case of sexual abuse. Once a formal complaint has been filed, the police department and child protective services will begin working together. In most cases, child protective services will begin investigating within 72 hours. Meanwhile, the police department will conduct a parallel criminal investigation. It is customary for officials to remain silent about the proceedings until the assessment has wrapped up, but you will know when to expect a response and where to turn for counseling services at the very least.

Within 10 days of filing your report, you can expect an in-person interview from child protective services, which may include a visit to your home, observations of your child and other children, checks of criminal records, and a request for medical records. Investigators will also look for other CPS reports involving your child’s daycare facility and conduct criminal background checks of daycare workers. They may interview workers, volunteers, other parents, therapists, food service workers, and anyone else who may have intimate knowledge of the daycare’s inner workings. The assessment is usually completed within 60 days.

Once the allegations are confirmed, it is up to the district attorney to decide whether or not to press criminal charges against the perpetrator. The goal of pressing criminal charges is to determine whether or not the accused is guilty of crimes against the State of California. Abusers may be sentenced to time in prison, ordered to pay fines to the state, put on probation, and/or placed on a sex offender registry. Pressing criminal charges isn’t your only option. While the abuser is tried in criminal court, you can also pursue civil litigation.   

Step 3: File a Civil Lawsuit

Regardless of how the criminal case against the perpetrator turns out, you also have the option to file a civil lawsuit on your child’s behalf for compensation to cover medical bills, counseling expenses, and emotional pain and suffering related to the abuse.

The list of defendants in civil sexual abuse lawsuits can go well beyond the perpetrator of the abuse. Molestation is often aided and abetted by institutions—such as daycares—who turn a blind eye to complaints of inappropriate conduct. While the ultimate objective of any civil lawsuit is financial compensation, many find that holding institutions accountable for wrongdoing is a key step in the healing process as well.

In addition to suing the individual perpetrator, you may also file a lawsuit against:

  • The daycare owners and administrators
  • Staff members who knew or should have known about the abuse and did nothing
  • The daycare’s state licensing agency

An experienced civil attorney will build a case that these entities owe a “duty of care” to parents of children at the daycare. All daycare attendees have the right to safety, including sufficient supervision and protection from abuse.

One example of holding a third party accountable can be seen with the Hollister Day Care case. When it was discovered multiple small children were reportedly sexually abused in 2015, and the daycare did not comply with state licensing regulations, the parents of one child filed a civil lawsuit in 2018 against “Go Kids”—a company that referred the family to this particular daycare.

Work With an Experienced Civil Attorney

It can be challenging to decide whether to press criminal charges, file a civil suit, or both. If you’ve already decided, there is still a legal maze of paperwork in figuring out what to do if your child was sexually abused at daycare. Working with a California attorney who specializes in sexual abuse cases is about more than legal advice and paperwork. Lawyers can also point you in the right direction for seeking medical attention, connecting with crisis social workers and counselors, dealing with insurance issues, and getting your life back in the wake of disturbing events that were beyond your control.

Lewis & Llewellyn has extensive experience in cases of child sexual abuse, including sexual abuse in daycare. We are particularly skilled at overcoming disputes regarding the statute of limitations, as well as the defendant’s claims that they weren’t aware of the abuse. Our attorneys have years of experience litigating high-profile sex abuse cases, securing millions of dollars on behalf of sexual abuse survivors.

Lewis & Llewellyn has the experience, grit, and compassion to help you obtain justice and maximum compensation. Contact our team online for support and guidance to see you through this emotional time, or call +1 (415) 800-0590 to schedule an appointment with an advocate today.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this blog or on this website should be construed as legal advice from Lewis & Llewellyn LLP. Neither your receipt of information from this website, nor your use of this website to contact Lewis & Llewellyn LLP creates an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm or any of its lawyers. No reader of this website should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this website without seeking the appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s jurisdiction.

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