The Role of Professional Child Care Providers in Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect
Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau. Karageorge, Kathy, Kendall, Rosemary|
|Year Published: 2008|
Purpose and Overview
Certainly, most parents share a desire to provide the best for their children. Research shows that parents and other caretakers, including child care providers, who have resources and support are more likely to provide safe and healthy environments for children. Indeed, when children are surrounded by secure relationships and stimulating experiences, they can draw from that environment to become confident, caring adults.1
Child maltreatment, however, can and does still occur. Child abuse and neglect may be a single incident, such as a caregiver shaking an infant to try to stop its crying, or a pattern of behavior, such as a parent providing inadequate supervision or sexually abusing a child over several months or years. It is often difficult to recognize, particularly in young children who may not be seen regularly by anyone other than their parents or child care providers. Child care providers' regular contact with children places them in a key position to recognize suspected child maltreatment. They are also legally mandated to report it. (Chapter 3, Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect, discusses reporting issues in detail). In addition, their close relationship with families allows them to support prevention efforts by identifying high-risk situations and by actively supporting good parenting through discussions with parents, appropriate behavior modeling for parents that promotes protective factors, or providing referrals for family support services. Appendix D, Handouts for Parents, provides several guides and tip sheets that child care providers can use to educate the parents of children in their care, as well as their own staff.
Child care plays a significant role in the lives of American infants and young children and is provided by relatives and nonrelatives alike. Relatives include siblings, grandparents, and other family members; nonrelatives include in-home babysitters, nannies, friends, neighbors, family child care providers, and child care and early education teachers and staff. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11.6 million (63%) children younger than 5 years of age were in some type of child care arrangement during a typical week. Forty percent of all children younger than 5 years of age were watched by a relative at least once during the week, 35 percent were watched by a nonrelative, and 0.2 percent were categorized as self-care. Almost one-quarter of the children received care in some type of organized facility, such as a child care and early education center or a Head Start program, and almost 14 percent received care in the provider's or child's home.2
All child care providers have a responsibility to provide a safe, clean, and nurturing environment for children in their care and to support the children's healthy growth and development. The current emphasis on early brain development and the desire of communities to have children "ready to learn" when they start school means that child care providers must nurture positive social and emotional development, as well as promote early learning.
This manual examines the roles and responsibilities that all child care providers have in supporting families and in preventing and responding to allegations of child abuse and neglect, whether in a small family operation or a large child care center. Topics addressed include:
- Recognizing physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological maltreatment, and neglect;
- Reporting child abuse and neglect;
- Minimizing the risk of maltreatment in child care programs;
- Preventing and responding to child abuse and neglect;
- Responding to allegations of child abuse or neglect perpetrated by child care providers;
- Caring for maltreated children and children at risk for maltreatment;
- Supporting parents.
While family child care providers will find material in each of the chapters that applies to their work with children and families, Chapter 5, Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Role of Family Child Care Providers, addresses some of the unique issues that apply to family child care.
Additionally, although this manual is intended principally for professional caregivers of children ranging in age from birth to age 6, much of the information also is relevant to the care of older children in after-school programs. Child care providers working with older children may want to read other manuals in the series, particularly The Role of Educators in Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect, to understand how maltreatment can affect children at older developmental stages.
Various terms are used in the field for individuals who provide care to children, including child care providers, child care workers, teachers, early childhood educators, and child care staff. Similarly, individuals in charge of programs are referred to by a range of terms, including director, supervisor, and administrator. In most settings, however, little or no distinction is placed on these terms. For the sake of clarity and ease of understanding, this manual primarily uses "child care provider" or "caregiver" to describe the former and "directors" or "supervisors" to describe the latter. Similarly, this manual's use of "parent" encompasses birth parents, guardians, stepparents, foster parents, and any other adults who have the primary responsibility for caring for a child.
This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway.