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Detecting Neglect and Abuse in your Child

Updated on May 26, 2014

Know the signs

Whether you leave your child with family or at a day care facility, mothers always dread leaving their child alone. There is always a real risk of neglect or abuse happening when you are not around and you need to stay vigilante and observant to your child's behavior. Have you ever noticed your child changing in front of your eyes? Have you ever suspected something just wasn’t right, that someone was not treating your kid right?

Well when I first took my son to day care the second time, he was two years old. Everyone in my family was pushing school for social skills and my son was uncomfortably shy and I agreed that maybe that was what he needed. So I got a full time job and sent him to day care 5 days a week. The first two days there, they told me that he was already ready for kindergarten, speaking well, knew his ABC’s etc. Everything was well for several months, until things started to change in my son.

At daycare, they told me that he may be autistic because he was not verbal at all anymore. They also commented that he had been stimming, a sensory tick that some children do for different reasons. They said that he was becoming defiant and he would freak out for no reason.

Obviously nervous I took him to his pediatrician. He still talked at home, but I had noticed he was withdrawing into himself, wasn’t as happy as he had always been. My doctor assured me that he did not have a learning disability, he was actually quite the opposite. So I told her what the day care had said and how he had been acting and then she asked me simply, “How much do you trust his daycare?”

With that question came a sinking feeling, how well did I trust anyone with my child? None to be honest, he is in fact the most precious thing I will ever have to take care of.

So with that in mind, I started dropping in at all hours at his daycare, going there for lunch breaks, early off of work, etc. So then one day I walked in on the owner/director sitting on a four year old, him screaming for his mother. It was a heart wrenching sight for me and here are twenty kids silently watching all this happen. I even had one little girl no older than five come up to me and tell me that that is what they do to them if they are bad. Shocked, I grabbed my child and yelled at the teacher that she could not do this to that child. She explained that she was trained to restrain children and she had had to do it to my son as well. My mind reeling, she had sat on my two year old and restrained him like an inmate. It all became clear though I will never know what all really went on in that daycare, they were abusing these children and then basically blaming the children and learning problems on the kids changes.

I reported the daycare and my son obviously never went back, but the effects still linger a bit. Although he has started talking like a chatter box again, he also went back to potty training, whereas he had reverted back to diapers.

So through this experience, my son had exhibited clear signs of abuse and neglect, I just played it off with another reason. If your child is ever away from you, especially one unable to fully communicate yet, please keep these signs in mind. Just one can be described as a number of things, however several signs may be trouble.

Drastic change of Behavior-If your child goes from being a loud energetic child, to a quiet sullen one.

Reverting to younger Age- My son stopped going in his potty chair, stopped communicating, he started babbling incoherently instead.

Signs of Aggression-Some children will start yelling, hitting, biting, kicking. If they are seeing this in the babysitting environment, they will start mimicking it.

When they get in trouble, they flinch or cower. I walked up to my son after he spilled something or what I don’t remember, but he got hysterical with his crying. Saying he was sorry over and over, like he was expecting to get a beating, as I don’t do corporal punishment, this was the big sign for me.

Does not want to be alone with certain people-Child gets emotional and upset when around a certain person or place. Do not always brush off your child’s reactions, children are still true and non-scripted.

In imagination play, child demonstrates improper play. Once again, children will play out what is happening, they learn by what is around them and have to get it from somewhere.

Child acts depressed-Signs of depression can mean a medical issue, however emotional stress will show up in many ways, this being one of them.

Mysterious Bruising-I know toddlers can be little klutzes sometimes, but excessive marks can be abuse. Small round bruising can be an indication for gripping, etc.

These are a few signs that I have read and personally seen, however the thing to keep in mind is change. Our children our steadily going to change, however drastic change can be a sign of a problem. Be vigilant in your child’s care when you are un able to be there, do not become complacent in trust. Our children cannot protect their selves right now, so we must. I wish I would have pulled him when I first had some suspicion, I have learned just go with your gut. You may honestly upset someone, but if they are intelligent adults they should understand. Go with your feelings, better safe than sorry.

At first my son was slow to go back to the way he was, but I made sure he knew that he would never have to go back there. Remind them that it is not their fault and what the people did to them was wrong and should not have been done.

A month later, even talking about him returning to school sets him in an emotional state. I have decided for the time being that I will take some time off to be with him. I am hoping in time he can return, although for now I want him in my sights. I hope that you never have to worry about this with your child, but the statistics are scary when it comes to child abuse and most of the time it is a family member, friend or romantic partner.


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    • AVailuu profile image

      A. Cristen Vailuu 3 years ago from Augusta, Ga

      Thank you for sharing your experience with the daycare. It's so hard to entrust a stranger with your child, especially when they're so young that it's naturally difficult for them to express themselves. I was terrified to leave my 9 month old with his day care that I also popped in at all hours of the day. He's 16 months now and we've built a great relationship with the staff that work there. I still pop in now and then to bond with him in his environment. I'm glad your son is doing well and I hope that you both have better luck with childcare workers!

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

      Tracy Lynn Conway 6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Thank you for sharing this awful experience and tips on being aware of the signs of abuse. I am glad that you got to the bottom of this before any further damage could have been done. I think that keeping your son with you will help him to heal.

      Very often childcare workers are underpaid and overwhelmed and it scares me to think that we put our most valuable possession in their care. I have heard other stories like yours.