Of the perpetrators in a child daycare setting, more than 20% of them committed sexual abuse. Most children under the age of five are cared for by someone other than a parent, like a daycare. Parents expect that when they drop their children off in the morning, that they will be cared for unconditionally until they pick them up after work.
Sexual abuse is defined as inappropriate or unwanted sexual touching or sexual acts that are committed against vulnerable parties, such as children, the elderly, or disabled individuals. In the 1980s, mass hysteria swept the nation, making it difficult for daycare workers to show children any attention while under their care.
It is not clear if any of these children in the 1980s were sexually abused by these daycare workers because the convictions were overturned in the years to come. In most circumstances, it was the testimony of the children and the lack of evidence that overturned these cases. It was believed that the questions were leading and promoted storytelling on the part of the children.
That does not mean that sexual abuse in daycares does not happen. Parents and additional caregivers have to be able to recognize the signs of sexual abuse in children.
SIGNS OF DAYCARE SEXUAL ABUSE
Age plays a significant role in the signs of sexual abuse in the daycare setting. Parents who have a suspicion that their child is being sexually abused at daycare may notice the following:
- Unusual interest in sexual matters – Children learn through play. If a child begins acting out inappropriate sexual behaviors or they seem to have knowledge about sexual matters that they should not have, it may be cause for concern.
- Infections or soreness in the genital area – Clear signs that a child might be experiencing sexual abuse are frequent urinary tract infections, yeast infections, or evidence of sexually transmitted diseases.
- Behavioral Changes – Young children often begin acting out when they are experiencing abuse. If a child who is even-tempered most of the time begins experiencing aggressive behavior, it might be a sign of sexual abuse. Some children may regress as a result of sexual abuse, such as wetting themselves after being potty trained.
- Anxiety or fear about the daycare – There is a normal amount of separation anxiety that children go through, but if it extends beyond this to a crippling fear of the facility, it may be a sign that the child is being sexually abused.
- Recurring nightmares – When a child has bad dreams or difficulty sleeping, it could be indicative of a problem within the daycare.
Some of these signs can be attributed to normal childhood behavior. They could also align with abuse in a daycare setting, not necessarily sexual abuse. Either way, noticing the changes within your child can help you identify if something is wrong.
In 2019, the owner of an unlicensed in-home daycare was sentenced to 30 days in jail after allegations were made accusing her of neglecting, abusing, and molesting several of the children under her care. Kimberly Hignite of Grove City, OH, made a generous deal with the prosecution of the case which resulted in sexual abuse charges being dropped and her spending only 30-days in jail. Five of the parents who spoke at the hearing discussed the stories their children had told them, including intricate details of the female anatomy. The prosecution did not say how many children that Hignite had sexually abused, just that the acts had been going on for a period of seven years. The prosecution also stated that the charges were reduced because many parents were not cooperative.
In the case of Kimberly Hignite, the children talked about the games that she would play with them. This resulted in the children being able to tell their parents what a grown woman’s anatomy looked and felt like. The woman’s game involved a blue and tan board with a red spinner, including pictures of genitalia. Young children should not have the knowledge of the things that they told their parents.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF DAYCARES
Daycares are responsible for keeping children safe while in their care. There is more than one type of daycare setting to choose from. Understanding the different settings can help you understand their responsibilities. Everyone knows that there are big facilities, small facilities, home facilities, church daycares, etc. The biggest difference among these is whether the daycare is licensed by the state or not. If a daycare is licensed by the state, it must meet specific requirements, including inspections to maintain this licensing.
Anyone who works in a state-licensed facility must undergo a background check. In some states, there are reports ran to ensure that a crime against a child has never been committed by the person in the past. The state licensing committees require that these centers follow specific rules that include implementing safety standards, employee standards, and how they are to interact with children. All employees of a licensed facility are required to undergo training for sexual abuse awareness.
A state-licensed daycare facility owner in Oregon, the abuser, the Oregon Department of Education, and the Oregon Department of Human Services are being sued in a civil case for $5.1 million by the representatives of three children who were sexually abused while under the care of the daycare facility.
The children who were sexually abused attended Stinky Feet Childcare, a facility owned by Ceola Harden in Independence. Already tried by a jury, Harden’s 27-year-old son was convicted of raping and sexually abusing five children who were under the care of the facility. Quinlyn Harden was convicted and sentenced to 54 years in prison.
After conducting a standard sex offender check on James Osborne in 2013, police discovered an unregistered laptop in his possession. The laptop contained footage of Osborne’s girlfriend and daycare worker Heather Koon carrying out sexual acts with young children who attended ABC Kidz Childcare Center in Elyria, OH.
Koon had been dating Osborne at the time the videos were made, and through his encouragement, she engaged in the sexual acts. Some of the children were as young as two years old. Osborne was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his part in the sexual abuse crimes. Koon also received life in prison without parole but has filed an appeal.
Unlike state-licensed daycare facilities, unlicensed facilities are exactly what they sound like. These facilities are not governed by any set of rules that are mandated by the state in which they reside. Of course, there is an implied level of care that should be contractual. Still, there is more risk involved with an unlicensed daycare facility. The proof can be found in the case of the Boston Child Rapist.
When John Burbine was 25 years old, he was convicted of molesting three children, ages five to seven years old. He had been hired as a babysitter to care for the young children but was later charged and convicted of sexual abuse. Burbine served six months of a two-year sentence and was required to register as a sex offender. The parents of the three young children thought that this meant that Burbine would never be allowed around children again, let alone care for them – they were wrong.
Between 2010 and 2013, Burbine and his wife owned and operated an unlicensed daycare. Waterfall Education Center was advertising their services online and was put on parenting message boards, offering coupons. During this time, Burbine would sexually abuse and rape 13 young children whose ages ranged from eight months to 3 years old.
In September of 2012, the prosecutor’s office began receiving complaints about Waterfall Education Center and Burbine. He was placed under arrest, at which time police promised that Burbine would never be around a child again. While awaiting trial, Burbine took his own life.
WHY TORKLAW FOR DAYCARE SEXUAL ABUSE CASES
Trying to understand exactly what has happened to your child after confirming sexual abuse at a daycare can be difficult. You trusted them to care for your child, and not only did they breach your trust, but they also monopolized the trust your child had for them as a caregiver. You are not alone in this – TorkLaw is here to help you file the lawsuits and get justice for your child.
Civil lawsuits make centers and employees liable for the breach of trust and the negligence in the care of the child who was sexually abused. Monetary damages can be assigned to the pain and suffering that a child and their family undergoes when dealing with the aftermath of sexual abuse. Tangible evidence that can be brought to the court is the therapy bills, the medical bills, and even the lost wages of the parent who now must stay home with their child because they will never trust another daycare again.
If you are the parent, grandparent, guardian, or caregiver of a child who has been sexually abused in a daycare, TorkLaw wants to be your child’s voice. We offer FREE and confidential case consultations for your daycare sexual abuse cases. We are available by phone at 888.845.9696, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.