When parents entrust their children in the hands of a daycare, the staff acts in loco parentis, which means standing in for parents to maintain a safe environment for children. The same is true for those in foster care. Foster care agencies are designed to be a safe haven for children who were otherwise abused, neglected, or abandoned. Children are placed in daycare or foster care in hopes that they can grow and thrive in a stable environment. Unfortunately, some caretakers prey upon vulnerable children, making their “home” a nightmare of abuse and isolation.
Most victims are not in a position to understand or question what’s happening to them, let alone speak up to authorities. Much sexual abuse in daycare and foster care settings goes on for years—sometimes suspected by daycare administrators or child protective services, but not acted upon. California’s mandated reporter law makes turning a blind eye illegal for those in certain roles of care.
Whether you are a parent learning of your child’s abuse while in daycare or you are a foster child dealing with the effects of earlier abuse—even years later—filing a civil lawsuit can represent one empowering path to justice and recovery. On this page, you’ll learn about statistics and cases of daycare abuse and foster care sexual abuse, California laws that protect minors, who can be held liable for the abuse, and the statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit.
Daycare and Foster Care Sexual Abuse Statistics
When it comes to statistics surrounding daycare and foster care sexual abuse, so little of what’s happening gets reported, and so little of what’s reported gets recorded in state databases.
- San Diego County investigated at least 51 instances of sexual abuse in foster care from 2013-2017.
- Nonprofit Darkness to Light states that children living in foster care are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than children who live with both biological parents.
With regard to daycare, one study found that children were more likely to be victims of sexual abuse within their own homes (5.5 per 10,000) than at daycare facilities (8.9 per 10,000). Home daycare facilities were not included in the study. From their best estimates, there were 418 sexually abused children in 96 centers nationwide over a two-year period.
In some cases, California law protects your right to file as a “Jane or John Doe.” This can keep your identity private, while still allowing you to pursue justice. Contact us to discreetly discuss your case.
California Laws Pertaining to Daycare or Foster Care Sexual Abuse
Child molestation laws in California pertaining to individual criminal activity are governed under:
- California PC 288: This law prohibits touching any part of a child’s bare or covered body, forcing the minor to touch themselves or anyone else for the purposes of sexual gratification. Penalties are stiffened for acts with a child under 14, acts coerced by force or fear, and when the perpetrator is more than 10 years older than the victim.
- California PC 288.7: It is illegal to engage in sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child under the age of 10, and punishable by 25 years to life in prison.
- California PC 647.6: This law makes it a crime to behave in a sexual way with a minor.
The law further protects children by holding other members of society accountable for the welfare of a child who may not be able to report a crime. California’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act holds certain child caregivers responsible for the protection of children they work with. Under the Act, these caregivers are named mandatory reporters along with health practitioners, child visitation monitors, police officers, firefighters, attorneys, school employees, film processors, clergy members, social workers, daycare workers, youth organization employees, and day camp employees. These individuals must report known or suspected child abuse to local law enforcement immediately. If these individuals fail to report abuse, they could face fines of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
Who Is Liable for Daycare Sexual Abuse?
It is illegal to run an unlicensed daycare in the state of California, as per the California Health and Safety Code sections 1596.72, 1596.73, and 1596.81. The Community Care Licensing Division of the Department of Social Services is responsible for approving state daycares and has issued more than 70,000 permits to date.
Unfortunately, there are still many unlicensed, unregulated private home daycare facilities. According to the LA Times, children in these settings are three times’ more likely to be physically, emotionally, or sexually abused. Furthermore, these unlicensed settings generally limit the scope of liability.
- In February of 2019, a 26-year-old Merced was sentenced to 10 years in prison for repeatedly molesting three girls under the age of 10 who were attending his mother’s at-home daycare dating back to at least 2010. One survivor accused the man of “robbing [her] childhood.”
- In another case, a man and his wife were charged with child pornography, conspiring to sexually exploit a minor, and lewd and lascivious acts related to their home daycare operation in Turlock. Hidden cameras filmed teenage girls in the bathroom and undressing—for which they owed $3,000 of restitution to each victim. The husband was sentenced to 20 years in state prison, while the wife awaits her sentencing.
Sexual abuse does not occur exclusively at private residences or behind closed doors. Sometimes operations with licensees, auditors, and state reviewers are the source of child sexual abuse investigations.
- A learning center in South Lake Tahoe was temporarily suspended after a daycare worker was accused of multiple counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 by use of force, duress, menace, or fear.
- A state-licensed childcare facility and preschool in Anaheim allowed a 20-year-old male worker into the bathroom with six- and seven-year-old girls, where he sexually abused them. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison.
- One home daycare in Salinas had been licensed to provide care for up to eight children since 1998 before the owner’s 73-year-old husband was accused of sexually abusing an eight- and nine-year-old.
In these instances, multiple third parties could ultimately be held liable for personal damages in civil court, as the civil court system allows for an extended scope of liability. Civil court can help provide survivors of sexual abuse with the financial means to seek counseling for effects that may linger years after the abuse.
Who Is Liable for Foster Care Sexual Abuse?
Foster care is almost always presided over by state officials. In these cases, there are social workers and agency administrators involved in the oversight. Liability extends to those who knew or should have known about the abuse.
In 2016, a pair of 18-year-old twins sued San Diego County for failing to protect them from sexual abuse by their foster father. According to the lawsuit, at six years old, one of the boys told a social worker he was being abused. Instead of reporting the incident to local law enforcement—as mandated by law—the social worker dismissed his request to transfer to another foster home. The boys remained in the home for seven more years, despite a number of red flags and over a dozen reports of suspected child abuse from physiologists, attorneys, and educators.
The abuser is now serving a 20-year prison sentence for crimes committed against the twins, another foster son, and two of the perpetrator’s younger cousins. The state settled with the victims for an undisclosed sum of money, acknowledging that they must do better to investigate and follow up on the children in the county’s foster care system.
In cases of indirect liability, attorneys will demonstrate that the defendant owed a “duty of care” to the plaintiff; that the defendant either knew or should have reasonably known of the abuse; and that the defendant did not take the appropriate action required by law or that a reasonable person in the same position would take. Third parties can be held liable for failure to conduct background checks, failure to supervise, failure to provide adequate training, and failure to take corrective action.
Statute of Limitations
for Child Sexual Abuse Cases
The statute of limitations is a deadline for pressing criminal charges or filing a civil lawsuit seeking compensation. It’s important to keep in mind that criminal and civil proceedings are treated differently by law and different timelines apply.
Section 340.1 of the Code of Civil Procedure sets the legal deadline for filing civil charges of child sex abuse to “within eight years of the date the plaintiff attains the age of majority (age 26) or within three years of the date the plaintiff discovers that psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of majority was caused by sexual abuse, whichever occurs later.” The civil code also provides for a delayed discovery period of three years. This means that a lawsuit will be timely if it is filed within three years after the date the victim discovered the connection between suffered injuries and the abuse itself.
Prior to January 1, 2017, there was a 10-year statute of limitations on criminal child molestation charges. That deadline has been abolished, allowing the pursuit of criminal charges at any time. There are certain exceptions to the rule that may pertain to your case, so it’s best to contact a lawyer to see if your case is still viable.
Did you know there are no upfront costs with Lewis & Llewellyn?
Every case review and consultation is free. Should we decide to take on your case, you will sign a contract defining payment, but no money is collected. Any fees required are factored into the settlement or compensation amount.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from speaking with an experienced attorney regarding your legal options.
San Francisco Attorneys Committed to Protecting Children
If you or your child silently suffered sexual abuse at a daycare or in foster care while mandatory reporters looked the other way or attempted to cover up the abuse, contact a San Francisco attorney. That person’s failure to abide by California’s mandated reporter law may have contributed to the abuse. An experienced legal representative can act as your advocate, providing counsel and empowering control over the course of the proceedings.
Here at Lewis & Llewellyn, we have a long track record of helping adult sexual abuse survivors overcome legal challenges and pursue compensation in civil court. We understand what is required to prevail in a civil lawsuit against a powerful and well-funded institution such as a daycare or foster care agency.
All of our lawyers come from the nation’s top law schools and have years of experience litigating high-profile cases at some of the world’s most respected law firms. Simply put, we are not just another run-of-the-mill personal injury law firm that also handles automobile accidents or slip and fall cases. We are a high-powered civil litigation boutique that routinely represents some of the most prestigious and successful companies in the world.
Whether you’re advocating for your child or are an adult seeking closure for abuse suffered years ago, the lawyers Lewis & Llewellyn in California have 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.
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