Child abuse at a child care facility. There is a long list of traffic violations for the woman accused of leaving a toddler in a day care van last year. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrested a female employee after police said she left a 3-year-old boy inside a day care van for several hours. An investigation revealed the female has pleaded guilty in several cases, including driving a child who wasn’t wearing a seat belt. She had a total of 22 traffic infractions from 2002-2010. While records show some were dismissed, other accusations include driving without a license, speeding and a minor not wearing a seat belt. Action News Jax went to First Coast Young Stars Learning Center to ask why the employee was hired to drive children around. “Listen, we ain’t going there, everybody have records way back then — we ain’t going there,” a day care employee said. The Florida Department of Motor Vehicles said the employee has a valid driver’s license. The day care said she was fired for the incident and the business is no longer running a shuttle service. The fired employee told Action News Jax over the phone that she feels there should be focus on her clean five-year driving record prior to Sept. 28 — the day of her felony arrest for allegedly forgetting the young child in a day care van. The young male’s grandmother said what happened to her grandson is unacceptable. “People go to work and trust you to keep their kids — and to keep them in the van, unacceptable.” The young child’s grandmother says he was in the van alone for hours.
Florida, the Department of Children and Families Office of Child Care Regulation and Background Screening is legally responsible for the administration of child care licensing and training throughout Florida. The purpose of this program is to ensure that children are well cared for in a safe, healthy, positive and educational environment by trained, qualified child care staff. This program currently regulates licensed child care facilities, among other facilities in 62 of 67 counties. In addition, the Office of Child Care Regulation and Background Screening administer the registration of family day care homes not required to be licensed.
Florida Jury Instructions tells us that if a parent places a child in the care and custody of custodian such as a day care worker and if the custodian was negligent in caring for and/or supervising the child, and if so, whether that negligence was a contributing legal cause of injury and/or death to the child, there is a credible cause of action for a parent to bring on behalf of the child.
The next question we are asked is if there is a time limit for the claim of action and what is the time limit. According to Florida law, the four-year statute of limitation applies to almost all causes of action against an institutional defendant (such as a daycare) pertaining to child sexual abuse. Causes that fall under that statute include negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and respondeat superior. The Florida Legislature, however, enacted two sex abuse-specific sections of the civil statutes of limitation: F.S. §95.11(7) for intentional torts based on abuse, and F.S. §95.11(9) for sexual battery offenses on victims under age 16. F.S. §95.11(9) applies to “any such action other than one which would have been time barred on or before July 1, 2010.
What is child abuse? Often, child abuse is narrowly defined as having only physical implications. In reality, child abuse includes:
- Physical abuse; unlawful corporal punishment or injury.
- General and severe neglect.
- Sexual abuse; sexual assault; exploitation.
- Willful harming or endangering a child; emotional maltreatment.
Child abuse may involve multiple categories in each family. They include both (overt) acts and omissions. Competent assessments and interventions must consider evaluating multiple categories of abuse.The act of inflicting injury or the failure to act so that injury results, is the basis for making the decision to intervene. A parent or caretaker may begin by inflicting minor injuries, then may increasingly cause more serious harm over a period of time. Therefore, detecting the initial small injuries and intervening with preventive action may save a child from future permanent injury or death. Physical injuries, neglect and malnutrition are more readily detectable than the subtle and less visible injuries that result from emotional maltreatment or sexual abuse. However, all categories of abuse endanger or impair a child’s physical and/or emotional health and development and demand attention.
If your child is injured at a daycare, you may have a case for neglect depending on the significance of the injury. Make sure you document the injuries with pictures and write down everything that is told to you and by whom. It will be important information to share with your attorney if a claim is filed.