• Tue, Sep 24 - 11:06 am ET

My Daughter’s Daycare Teacher Has Been Charged With Abuse

daycareOne of my worst nightmares became a reality a month ago: One of my child’s daycare teachers was fired for allegedly abusing children.

I had received a strange phone call several weeks earlier, from the daycare director. “You may be receiving a call about Jessie some time today,” she said. “Did you have any complaints about her regarding her taking care of your daughter?”

I didn’t. My first impression of Jessie was that she was a bit distant with the kids—the first time I saw her, she was outside on the playground holding a toddler, surveying the group of kids without a smile. I thought she was someone’s mom, because she didn’t seem very interested in interacting with everyone. But she was young, somewhat attractive, and perhaps these things tricked me into believing she was perfectly competent.

After that phone call, she and the other primary toddler teacher were both fired from the daycare. A handful of the kids who had been enrolled full-time also stopped coming. My daughter didn’t seem any different through the whole ordeal. She’d had some trouble sleeping on occasion, but this wasn’t anything new (we co-sleep, so we all sometimes toss and turn). I assumed it was a technicality – maybe Jessie hadn’t adhered to the child-to-adult ratio, or maybe she gave a kid the wrong kind of food. I didn’t know, but everyone seemed so calm about it. I assumed things were taken care of. Plus, the director had installed security cameras in all of the rooms, which seemed like a good proactive step.

But I found out a couple of weeks later from an ex-employee, one who had quit after a long three years of loyal service, a little more about what had been going on. Jessie had locked a child in the toddler bathroom, a tiny, dark space, as punishment. She had also discovered that a particular stuffed animal scared one of the little girls, so she would terrorize the girl with it whenever she misbehaved. And when they were playing outside in the summer heat, the protocol was to spritz the children with a water bottle to keep them cool – but Jessie would turn the spray on jet and squirt the kids in the face. The other employees caught on when they noticed the toddlers running away and crying whenever they would get out spray bottles to clean the rooms.

A police investigation has been consequently launched and charges have been pressed against Jessie by the family of one of the children.

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  • Angela

    This is horrifying! I can’t understand why people choose to work with children if they don’t even like them and I would be livid if someone treated my child that way.

    However, the incidents described while serious are not the types of things likely to permanently scar a child whose life is otherwise stable and loving. Also I think it’s a good sign that the other caregivers were appropriately concerned and that there’s safety measures like cameras in place. After this I imagine the center will be hypervigilant and likely to take even minor complaints seriously.

    If your daughter’s old enough I would definitely have a talk with her about good and bad touches and boundaries. Tell her that her body belongs to her and that no one has the right to do things that hurt her or make her feel uncomfortable, even adults. Make sure she knows who to tell if this ever happens. Having this conversation on a regular basis with kids makes it much more likely that they will be likely to report abuse immediately if it ever does happen.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Amanda Low

      This is great advice. And yes, I’m keeping her in this daycare because they seem to have done all they can to address the situation and avoid future problems. I love the girls who care for my baby now, and I know that it’s impossible to know 100% whether someone they hire is going to turn into a complete nutcase on the job. My daughter seems to really love it there, especially nowadays, but it was still a very distressing experience.

  • http://anniedeezy.tumblr.com/ Annie

    Man. What a cunt.

    I’ve worked in childcare between semesters, and I saw parents get away with some sick shit that cops would just brush off when you try to report them. In those instances, I’d just go to the grandparents because they were usually the ones writing my checks anyway. When protective agencies are so lackadaisical, care centers don’t have that grandparent safety net. It should be up to the employees to alert parents of this behavior when for whatever reason that employee can’t be reigned in. If it costs the whistle blower their job, well, enjoy the media circus, jerkwads.

  • Paul White

    Well, more worries to have now.

  • keelhaulrose

    I once worked in a daycare, and witnessed one of the other teachers force a two year old’s head back and pour water down her throat because she wouldn’t drink during snack. I reported her and she was fired, but my co workers knew I was the one who reported her and some have me the cold shoulder after. It shook my confidence in that center, and I wasn’t sorry when I was done with it.
    I’ve worked with kids for a long time, and most people there are wonderful, patient people who genuinely love their jobs. But there are a few bad eggs, and you can tell by how they interact with kids. You can’t force yourself to like the job. I’m glad this teacher was fired and there was an abuse charge. It keeps them away from kids.

  • Kat Hudson

    My daughter has been in two daycare homes. The first one was super-close to my house and the woman who ran it was a single mother, like me. She seemed a little cold, but the kids she had in her care seemed pretty happy.

    I was forced to change daycare providers a few months in, but I was glad because it just didn’t seem like my daughter was in the type of loving hands I wanted her to be in. One day, shortly before we quit going to the first daycare, I came to pick up my daughter. She was covered in another baby’s vomit. There were lots of little signs I started to see but it was already too late. When I quit, she threatened to sue me for her lost income. I found out our state keeps a database of all daycare providers (licensed ones) and found out she’d been shut down twice before. Chalk it up to being a new parent, but I will never go into another daycare situation so blindly again!

  • LiteBrite

    This would scare me to death. However, kudos to the other daycare providers for noticing the behavior and reporting it to the right people.

    And don’t beat yourself up over not “seeing” what was going on with Jessie. Being a little off doesn’t always equal abuse, and since you didn’t notice any significant changes in your child you had no reason to think anything awful was happening. Just be glad Jessie was caught when she was.

    • Wendy

      And to add to that, anybody is smart enough to act really nice when the parents are around. So even if there was crazy serious abuse, no parent would see it. So it’s not something she should beat herself up about.

  • Kimberly

    How horrible for all of you. Being a concerned and caring parent is the best you can do other than keeping an open eye on behaviors and attitudes. We can’t see everything. People can be very deceptive to even themselves, so don’t feel bad or deceived. The person has some problems and hopefully your daughter has only loving caregivers from here on out. Stay loving, protective and dependable and your daughter can make it through anything.

  • TngldBlue

    What an awful experience. I have to say though I think it’s highly inappropriate that you had to find out what actually happened from an ex-employee weeks later. I would not be happy that a child was abused to the point of charges being filed and the director did not find it necessary to inform the other parents, if for no other reason than to give the parents the opportunity to discuss it with their children and answer any questions about these two teachers appropriately.

    • Blueathena623

      Yeah, the director should have said something.

    • SDA

      I’m shocked that there wasn’t. Especially to find out if other children may have been abused.

    • Wendy

      Wondering if the whole daycare is under review now and if she informs then she’s worried about herself/her business for letting it happen. Which…really, it’s the director’s responsibility as well.

  • Katy Black

    The daycare I worked at hired a woman who I got bad vibes from. She was on her phone constantly, and I’m certain she intentionally gave a boy milk, knowing he could really actually die from it. She didn’t get fired, but she quit when she stole my cell phone. Aside from that, I watched three teachers get fired for leaving toddlers alone.

  • Lauren

    I am so sorry. It is horrifying that we never know everything that goes on at school or daycare. My daughter is in preschool (K3) and started at this day school when she was 18 months. She has become a different child since starting K3 at the beginning of the month. She wails the whole way home and begs me not to send her back. I have no clue WHAT to do. This article makes me think maybe I should just withdraw her.

    • Holla

      Withdraw her. My kindergarten teacher was an angel when my mom dropped me off, then proceeded to physically and verbally abuse me and a few choice (i.e. Hispanic) children when alone. I’m talking dragged across the floor by our hair, having her very pointed, manicured nails being dug into our cuticles and pushed along the page when we had a question about the coursework on the paper, being told how dumb we are, etc. I didn’t have the courage to tell my mom anything until 3rd grade. After she finished crying her eyes out, I’m not sure what happened, but she told me she wished I had told her sooner so I wouldn’t have had to go through that.

    • Stale Sunshine

      I agree that you need to withdraw her. My daughter’s pre-k was not a good fit for her. She would not want to go to school on class days and would feel sick. It was awful for her. I called the center and had her moved to another room. There is nothing like your 4 year old telling you that going to school makes her feel like she is in the trash can.

    • Katherine Handcock

      Lauren, what does your daughter say when you ask her why she doesn’t want to go back? I ask because sometimes it can be something totally innocuous that makes a kid so unhappy — there’s on child at my son’s (awesome) preschool who’s been really thrown that the 4-year-old class has five more students than last year’s 3-year-old class, for example. I think you should investigate more deeply – ask your daughter, the teachers, other parents. Maybe even stay/come back early so you can observe.

      While I think withdrawal should still be on the table as an option, keep it a bit lower down on the list until you know what’s going on. I know some people my age whose parents would allow them to withdraw whenever they had any problem — conflict with another student, poor fit with a teacher, anything. The problem is that at a certain point in adult life that no longer becomes an option, so learning to work through difficult or upsetting circumstances should be a part of your daughter’s education. I’m not saying “Tough it out through anything,” but make sure you’ve really thought things through before you take that next step.

    • Evelyn

      It could be an innocent change, like a favorite friend leaving, but if your child is that unhappy it seems worth moving her anyway. Is the preschool linked to the school she will attend when older? That is the only reason I would persevere if my kid really, really hated preschool. My son loved his playgroup but then his two best friends left for the nursery attached to the local school. There was nothing wrong with the playgroup but he was so unhappy that when a place came up I leaped at it. After that he was all smiles again every morning.

      How old is K3? I am in another country so school ages are probably different (we start at 4). Is she old enough to talk to about it?

    • Life-Sized Mommy

      Trust your instincts.
      My son was at the same daycare center from the time he was 6 months old and, when he moved up to the 3-year-old class, started having problems. (This was right around the time the center came under new management and there were staff changes.) Coming home with injuries that no one could remember occurring. Crying every time we dropped him off, miserable, constant (very nasty) notes being sent home about how much trouble he was. Tried talking to the teacher, tried talking to the director, and they just stonewalled us. Claimed our kid had emotional/behavioral/developmental/whatever-else-they-could-think-of problems. (According to his pediatrician, he’s advanced. According to every other teacher he’s ever had, he’s a sweetheart.)
      We found out from some of the old staff who had stayed on that we were being lied to about a lot of things. When we confronted the director about it, rather than being embarrassed that she was caught in a lie, she was angry that we wouldn’t tell her who snitched on her.
      Things got so ugly we ended up pulling my son without notice. It was hard because we had to SCRAMBLE to find childcare. But his happiness and attitude at home improved overnight, once he didn’t have to deal with the daily stress of going there anymore. It’s been almost a year but he still talks about that place, how mean everyone was, and asks to make sure he doesn’t have to go back.
      I wish I had trusted myself and my child sooner, but I didn’t want to be one of those parents who thinks their kid is perfect and that everything is someone else’s fault. But, from what I’ve seen since (the second director is already gone and they can’t find anyone who wants to take over), I know that, on this occassion, my child was in the right.

  • SDA

    I think our judgment of character is sometimes overridden by not wanting to seem the crazy, over-protective mother. As moms we are told that we worry too much, need to let go, etc etc; and as a new mother especially sometimes our feelings are written off by others.

    I had to pull my child out of her first sitter because of a very neglectful situation. Unfortunately it had been a few months before something substantive showed itself as proof of my original intuition. I regret not listening to my instincts, but my daughter is in such a wonderful care situation now that I don’t hold on to the self-loathing I had afterwards. When it comes to who our children stay with, I don’t think our feelings ever need to be justified, we should be 100% happy with the provider and not need to feel like we need to find a reason if we aren’t.

    So sorry to hear about this situation!

  • thisshortenough

    So sorry to hear that. Just recently here in Ireland there was a big scandal when a hidden camera show uncovered many creche workers being overly rough in different creches. There was footage of children being slammed onto mats, children being screamed at for not sitting still at a table, children being left in rooms on their own as punishment, children left in high chairs for hours at a time. It was horrific.

  • Kc

    In many states, becoming a daycare provider is one of the easiest and most widely available jobs for people with no education and that are in need of employment. It pays minimum wage generally.
    I’m not sure how they EVER keep good people. It’s sad. People who provide childcare should be paid more. Even the people who went to school to get their license’s can barely get by on what they make usually. How can anyone expect it to draw quality people who want to stay in that profession because they believe in what they do, if they can barely make a living at it? It’s a lot like teaching in that way. Except worse because many are hired with no license. Just people off the street.
    I do not have kids yet but this is something I think about often in the consideration of having them. I would never be able to trust the strangers at the daycare.

    • Wendy

      When I was in college, I applied at several daycares. At an interview at one, I saw a worker pick up a small child by one arm to move the kid. Not angry, screaming, just the child was in the way, so she dragged the kid elsewhere by their body weight on one arm. I was SHOCKED that she did that, and that it was done in front of me, a stranger. So glad that they didn’t call back because I was a starving college student and I really needed the job. It would have been a serious moral dilemma for me. And looking back on it now as a more experienced adult, I probably should have reported it to some authority. I don’t think it was serious enough to have called police, so I didn’t know what to do at the time.

  • Yves

    Daycare centers pay the workers minimum wage – you’re not going to get someone with a college degree when they’re paying $7.25/hour. The people with a degree are usually the head teacher (and even them are paid about 27K/year – not much). Then home daycares are usually just mom’s who are trying to make money without having to go out to work….so you ge a mixed bag – women who really are awesome and care, and women who could care less. Sorting through and finding a GOOD provider is hard. That’s why dh is just gonna stay home when our baby is born and I’ll continue to work (I LOVE my job and work at a school so I get lots of time off anyway). I just can’t deal with freaken daycares. I’m sorry you had to deal with this :(

  • Chrissy

    That is so awful. I think you’re doing the right thing by being watchful in case your daughter shows signs of any sort of distress and she seems to be doing well, which is a good sign. I can’t believe it took so long to be reported, though. If the other teachers were saying things, this should have been investigated. The director should have been in those classrooms or had cameras installed much earlier. This never should have gone on as long as it did.

    It’s awful but try not to beat yourself up about it. It’s hard to tell if someone is just having an off day or if they’re a legitimately terrible person. Working with children in any capacity in my state requires all sorts of background checks. It’s a safety net, but it’s still not ironclad. With younger people, especially, they may not have an offenses to report yet.

  • MoD

    This is such a horrible situation and I would be in tears. It is so hard to find someone that makes you feel comfortable and you’re putting so, so much trust in them. Particularly if your child is too young to communicate a bad situation. I would be just lost if I found out I put my son in a dangerous care situation.

    Maybe it’s weird but I trust my gut way more than any background check when it comes to choosing my son’s care providers. It seems like there’s been a lot of this stuff in the news lately? There are way too many people out there watching kids who shouldn’t be. If you hate kids, get a different job! If you can get a minimum-wage job watching kids you should be able to get a minimum-wage job as a cashier or clerk, and you’re not hurting innocent little people who can’t protect themselves or even tell anyone they’re being hurt. It makes me sick.

  • Lauren

    I don’t have kids yet but I hope I can afford to stay home with them when I do, there’s no way I would be comfortable leaving a toddler with a group of strangers who have no more education (and get paid no more) than the burger flippers at McDonalds.

    • SDA

      There are good options to look into. We use an inhome licensed sitter who watches only 3 children and actually for 3 days a week it is only 2. We didn’t know her before but she is family now. Just to think about if you ever do have to make that decision.

  • Michelle

    I worked at Kindercare when I was 17. I saw verbal abuse daily. One little girl was put in the corner daily, the teachers said she was a brat and spoiled at home. The teachers would ignore the kids on the playground and laugh at me for playing with them. One little boy liked me and would cling to me, they told me he was just an attention seeker and to just ignore him. It was the worst experience of my life. I finally quit and felt so sad for leaving all those little 3 year olds who were there from 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. until 6 at night. Later I learned that the cops had been called on Kindercare because the teachers would yell so loud at the kids on the playground. So sad. I swore I would never put my own children in this type of situation. I would work nights, odd jobs, hours etc. to avoid this.

  • CB

    What a terrible experience. A casual staff daycare provider was fired for child abuse at our children’s daycare last year. We never found out the details, but it freaked us out a bit. It was in a different room than my children are in. We’ve kept our children in center, which is overall quite good. It freaks me out that something like that happened, but it could happen at any center. I’m reassured that they dealt with it and fired the staff member. And I feel even more nervous about home daycares, because there is no one watching. Did I make the right decision in keeping my kids in the daycare?

  • Pauline

    I don’t have kids, but I urge everyone who does to be very, very careful about daycare providers. My mother who abused me emotionally, physically, and sexually was a childcare provider. She ran a daycare out of her home for about 10 years in between the births of my older sibling and me. This was in the 60s and 70s.

    It always amazed me that people would actually leave their kids with her. There is obviously something “off” about my mother; most people who meet her notice it. Always be sure to ask your kids lots of questions about what goes on at daycare.