In Florida and other States, day care centers should be safe havens for children. A day care center should be a place where a child is supervised by care providers who understand and appreciate the needs of children. In most instances, a day care center is a supportive and safe environment for children. However, there are facilities where a child has been harmed by the very individuals charged with protecting them. In some instances, it is a family member of the day care center operator or employee. The abuse, neglect, and, yes, sexual assault of a child in a day care center is reported far too often. It is these horrible acts that give a parent pause as to the use of a day care center facility at all. Unfortunately, the acts of the few often times affect the mindset or opinion of others.
When a child is sexually assaulted at a day care center, the actions or inactions of a parent or guardian can have a significant impact on the child. Furthermore, the actions or inactions of a parent or guardian can have a significant impact on a potential criminal investigation or prosecution of a case. If a parent suspects that a child has been harmed at a day care center, a parent can take a number of actions to both protect the child and to prosecute the wrongdoer. In Winter Haven, Florida, it was reported that a 3 year old boy was allegedly molested by a day care operator’s husband. When the mother picked up the boy from the day care center, the mother asked her son a very common question – how was your day? The boy responded by stating that “Mr. Gardner licked my pee pee.”
The mother remained calm and went home with the child where she asked him again about his day and for the child to show his mother on a teddy bar what had happened. Thereafter, the mother took the boy to a local hospital where he was examined and DNA evidence was gathered. Through a criminal investigation and legal intervention, the suspect – Carroll Gardner – was required to provide a DNA sample which matched the sample taken from the boy. Based on the boy’s testimony and DNA evidence gathered, it would appear that there is a strong criminal case against Mr. Gardner. Of course, like other Florida criminal matters, Mr. Gardner will be entitled to representation by a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney or the local Public Defender’s Office.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd was quite appalled by the alleged acts of Mr. Gardner and stated that, “Is that about the most disgusting thing you’ve ever heard?” Sheriff Judd is right on point. Unfortunately, child molesters often times seek out their victims in the very place where one would think that a child would be safe like a day care center, school, church, sports league, and other locations / venues.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office and abuse investigators, as part of the criminal investigation, would like to know if there are any other victims out there. If a parent has concerns or reasonable suspicion that a child was molested or otherwise harmed at Kat Gardner’s 24/7 Daycare, the parent should contact the Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline and / or the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
The mother of the 3 year old boy as referenced abuse should be commended for her quick and calm thinking when responding to the horror story as related by her son. The DNA evidence collected should qualify as key evidence in the criminal prosecution against Mr. Gardner. You can read more about this story at Polk County Day Care Center – Criminal Investigation – Sexual Assault of 3 Year Old Boy.
Parent should be aware of resources and guidance available when there is a reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse or harm of a child at a day care center. These include the following:
Emergency Room. If a child has been molested, it is important for the child to get a medical evaluation. In some instances, the abuse or neglect was not recent so DNA evidence cannot be obtained. Nevertheless, a medical evaluation which will include a verbal history of the incident or incidents can be helpful documentation and evidence in a subsequent criminal prosecution. Most, if not all, emergency room staff members are trained to respond to allegations of sexual assault involving a child.
Pediatrician. The child’s pediatrician may be another good resource to conduct the evaluation, examination, and obtain a medical history for the child.
Florida Department of Children and Families. The Department of Children and Families otherwise known as DCF is the government agency in the State of Florida that is charged with conducting investigations as to the abuse / neglect of a child. This agency also is responsible for the licensure and inspection of day care centers. There is a Florida Child Abuse Hotline in place that can field calls when a person / parent has a question or concern about the abuse or neglect of a child.
Florida Child Protection Team. The Department of Health Children’s Medical Services Child Protection Team (CPT) is a government program / division put in place to assist and supplement child abuse and child neglect investigations in the State of Florida. The Florida Child Protection Team has trained counselors and therapists to properly interview a child suspected of being abused, neglected or sexually assaulted. The program and Florida Child Protection Team is authorized to act pursuant to Section 39.303, Florida Statutes.
Florida Child Injury Lawyer. A parent can also reach out to speak to a Florida Child Injury Lawyer to discuss the respective rights of the victimized child. A Florida Child Injury Lawyer can provide advice, guidance, and, when appropriate, legal representation of the child in the criminal and / or civil proceeding regarding the abuse, neglect, or assault of the child.
Law Enforcement. If a parent suspects that a child has been the victim of abuse, neglect, or assault, the matter can be reported directly to local law enforcement to conduct an investigation. In most cases, the local law enforcement will coordinate its efforts with the Department of Children and Families and the Child Protection Team.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor / Licensed Social Worker. Counselors and social workers are also good resources for parents and children. A parent may be able to gain access to a counselor or social worker through law enforcement, Department of Children and Families, Child Protection Team, or privately.
The book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know - has chapters on Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, Medical Care and Treatment, Homeowner’s Insurance, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury. The book titled – Florida Day Care Center Injuries – Legal Rights of the Injured Child Building Blocks of Knowledge for Parents - has chapters on Indoor Facilities, Outdoor Facilities – Playgrounds, Staffing, Record Keeping, Emergency Procedures, and other topics. You can get this book for free at Florida Day Care Center Injuries.