In Florida and other States, day care centers should essentially be safe havens for children. Hard working parents deserve the comfort and peace of mind knowing that a child is safe and protected in a day care center. Unfortunately, far too many children are injured in the very places (day care centers / child care centers) where the children should be otherwise in a safe learning environment. In the aftermath of a child injury at a Florida day care center, a parent is faced with many questions, challenges, and stresses. It is at this time that a Florid Child Injury Lawyer can provide some help, guidance, advice, and, when necessary, legal representation. David Wolf has over 26 years of experience. From this first day on the job as an attorney to the present day, he has spent the duration of his entire legal career to the protection and enforcement of the legal rights of children. He is the author of a number of books including the book titled – Florida Day Care Center Injuries – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – Building Blocks of Knowledge for Parents. This book has chapters on Indoor Facilities, Outdoor Facilities, Playgrounds, Staffing, Emergency Procedures, Incident Reports, and other topics. You can get this book for free at Florida Day Care Center Injuries.
When evaluating a potential day care center case, there are four elements to establish:
1 – Duty;
In day care centers throughout Florida including Miami, the children enrolled in the child care facility should be provided with safe and nurturing environment. It is important for child care providers and workers to have proper training, common sense, and, yes, patience to work with children. If working with children causing a person stress to the point that a child is hit and struck by a day care center work, that particular worker should be removed from the job, go to jail, and ultimately find a new career. Working with children is no easy task; however, employment in a child care facility or day care center is a voluntary choice by a day care worker. As such, no-one is forcing the day care worker to take the position. Unfortunately, far too many instances of abuse and neglect go unnoticed and unreported. Parents are kept in the dark and the children in the day care center are often victims without a voice and without the power to stop their abusers. However, in many other instances, the day care center worker is caught in the act by another co-worker, management, parents, or other children who take that bold step to report the incident and have the conduct addressed. It is clear that day care center workers should use their efforts and abilities to act in the best interest of the children. It is well known that the care and supervision of a children are not easy tasks; nevertheless, in Florida day care centers, corporal punishment is prohibited. There is no excuse or defense to the hitting, torturing, and harming of a child enrolled in a day care center by a the very people responsible for caring for the child.
It was reported by various media outlets that a day care center through a private charter school in Miami Beach was the site of the corporal punishment / abuse of children under the care of the child care center. In particular, a video surveillance camera revealed that a child care worker documented the hitting, twisting of arms, and other abuse of children who were in the 2 to 3 year old age group. When the abuse originally came to light, no immediate arrests were made. Then, after a week or so of further investigation by social service and local law enforcement, the day care center worker – Clara Luz Quintero-Gonzalez – was arrested. For more information regarding these incidents, see Miami, Florida Day Care Center Worker Arrested for Hitting Children Under her Care at the Lincoln Marti Day Care Center.
It should be noted that the criminal prosecution of a day care center worker is not a prerequisite or requirement for a parent to bring a civil action or claim on behalf of a child who was injured or harmed by a day care center provider. Certainly, it is quite compelling when a day care center worker is arrested following an allegation of abuse or neglect. Furthermore, having video surveillance that actually documents the alleged abuse or neglect can be used as evidence in the potential criminal case or civil case of abuse / neglect in a day care center. If there is believed to probable cause that a crime was committed, an arrest can and should be made. The further prosecution of the defendant will depend on the evidence gathered and potential defenses (if any) that may be raised in response to the allegations. The criminal allegations must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. For a civil case, the standard of proof is by the preponderance of the evidence with is lesser standard than for a criminal case.
In this article, it is interesting to note that strollers and other confined spaces can present a real risk of danger, medical complication, and even death to children in the heat of summer and other months. Since children do not sweat or control body temperature the same as an adult, a glance at a child may lead a child care provider to believe that all is well because the child is not sweating profusely or appear to be that hot or overexposed to the heat. The truth is that child care provides, on many occasions, do not and cannot see that a child is truly a risk and approaching a critical overexposure to the heat. Some times, it is only the child’s outward signs of trauma, arrest, or other significant issues that finally alerts the child care provider that there is a problem.
In Florida, child care providers, summer camps, day care centers, schools and other entities have a duty to keep a child out of harm’s way. One known risk is the Florida heat. Make sure that a child – especially infants and toddlers – are provided with proper ventilation when in confined spaces like a stroller. Furthermore, as we have seen far too many times, a child should not be left unattended on a school bus or school van without air conditioning. Let’s make sure that this point is clear. A child needs to be supervised at all times and should never be left on a bus or van alone – air conditioned or without air conditioning.
In the State of Florida, corporal punishment is prohibited in day care centers. There are strong public policy and safety reasons for having such a law in place. It does not matter that the teacher of the day care center was subjected to corporal punishment as part of his or her upbringing. Furthermore, a parent cannot and should consent to the imposition of corporal punishment at a day care center since it is against the law. Toddlers and small children should learn by instruction and restrictions that DO NOT involve physical harm, pinching, punching, withholding of food, false imprisonment, or other acts that are neglectful and / or malicious in manner. Because of this, it is important that Florida day care centers are staffed with trained and caring individuals who have the personality, patience, and maturity to deal with the stresses and demands of the job. Certainly, it is challenging to be a day care center worker or child care provider. When the stress intensifies, the day care worker / child care worker should step back and assess or reassess his or her current actions, his or next actions, and the rest of the day.
Day care centers have a duty to provide supervision to the children enrolled in the program. As part of this supervision, child care providers should make sure that all exits and areas are secure and that no children wander away from the facility. It is well known that children are curious and lack good safety awareness. As such, at times, a child will wander away from the facility. This, in turn, may lead to serious personal injuries or even the death of the child. This raises the issue as to whether the day care center is liable when a child wanders away from the facility. From a practical standpoint, it may be difficult to pursue a civil case or claim when there was no physical harm caused to the child during the wandering away incident or event.
At most playgrounds, it is common to see a slide. Children often enjoy playing on playgrounds and especially the joy and thrill of climbing up a slide and then sliding down. If the slide is age appropriate and used correctly, most injuries from playground slides are avoided. This also assumes that there is sufficient and reasonable supervision in place for all of the children on the playground including but not limited to the slide area – ladder, levels, slide, and landing. Unfortunately, for some children, the playground slide is the location of a serious personal injury. When a child is injured on a playground, the day care center, summer camp, property owner, school, or city / county entity may be liable for the resulting injuries and damages. The liability or responsibility will depend on the ability to prove the four essential elements of a civil case or claim: