Is child in my daycare being sexually abused by her father?
Dear Stop It Now!,
I believe that a child in my daycare might be sexually abused by her father. Her “area” is always red and in 3 months, she has had 4 yeast infections. Her father jumps at the chance to get her dressed and give her a bath. I don’t have any "evidence". What can I do?
Dear Concerned Daycare Provider,
Thank you so much for following up on your concerns and observations. You add a blanket of safety for this little girl and all of the children in your daycare by your courage in speaking up about these concerns.
Warning Signs of Abuse
You have identified some warning signs of possible child sexual abuse - in both the child and the adult. Are there others? Review particularly:
- Behaviors to Watch for When Adults Are With Children
- Signs That an Adult May Be At-Risk to Harm a Child
- Warning Signs in Children and Adolescents of Possible Child Sexual Abuse
Please note that a sign or two does not necessarily mean that a child is being sexually abused. Rather it's important to note the number of warning signs, as well as any patterns. Also, check with any colleagues at the day care – do they have concerns? Have they noticed any warning signs?
Have you spoken with this father (or another parent if there is one) about the yeast infections? While you don't share the child's age, because she is in daycare, I am assuming that she is young. While it is not uncommon for young children (even toddler age) to have a yeast infection, chronic yeast infections do require some investigation. Your conversation can focus on the medical attention and treatment she may need as opposed to an accusation of sexual abuse.
It would be very reasonable to ask what the little girl's pediatrician says is the cause of the yeast infection and what is being done to prevent it from reoccurring. Do you have anything in your policies about sharing medical information? Can you ask for a "note" from the doctor with medical follow-up information?
Filing a Report
How the father responds to your questions may give you some additional direction. If you are not comfortable with his answers or he seems evasive, this may be an additional warning sign. If you feel that he is not offering concrete information about his daughter's medical condition and you remain unsure regarding what type of treatment she is receiving, you may want to consider consulting with your local child protective service (CPS). While you may not have "evidence" of sexual abuse, if a medical condition is untreated in a child and that medical condition begins to have an ongoing adverse effect on the child, CPS will often take this as a report of medical neglect.
Contact Childhelp at 1.800.4ACHILD (800.422.4453) to obtain the reporting hotline for your area. These calls are usually confidential and you can review your concerns with CPS, and they'll let you know whether the situation is reportable. For more information on filing a report, please look over our Online Help Center information: Reporting.
Continue to Monitor
In the meantime, continue to closely monitor this little girl and her parent’s behavior. You may even want to keep a journal so that you can track your observations and concerns. I wouldn’t suggest talking to the little girl about her safety unless you’re responding to something specific she says. Any disclosures she may make that sound like she’s saying she is being abused should immediately be reported, and it is suggested that once a disclosure is made, no further questions are asked until the child protection folks are informed.
As an adult in her life responsible for her well-being, she will benefit from the safe and nurturing environment you continue to provide her. While you are keeping an eye out for her, you are also helping her establish a healthy and trusting relationship with a safe adult. This will help her in the long run, especially if abuse does become even more of a possibility. Please also read our prevention tip sheet, Safety in Daycare/Educational Settings.
I hope this information is helpful, and please do not hesitate to contact us back with further concerns or questions.
Stop It Now!
Last edited on: May 18th, 2015