Daycare Abuse Statistics

Categories: General News, Other, Our Perspective, School Safety

Learn the facts and be prepared to help to raise awareness and prevent daycare abuse.

At Darkness to Light, we are often asked about daycare abuse statistics. Daycare centers can be vital to working parents or parents who need help with child care. Kids start to learn important life skills including social skills at daycare.

Daycares work hard to keep the children in their care safe and parents entrust them with their children expecting them to be safe and happy. As a daycare provider or parent/guardian, you most likely deal with health requirements that are in place before children can attend daycare and have to fill out emergency contact information. But does the daycare have policies and procedures in place to prevent child abuse? Unfortunately, most states that have legislation mandating child abuse training for adults and children do not include education for daycare centers, even though they are mandatory reporters in most states. So, as a daycare provider or parent what do you need to know and do to help protect kids?

The statistics and facts below can help you understand the prevalence of child abuse, including daycare abuse, what child sexual abuse is, the risk factors, and consequences. For all statistics and references about child sexual abuse prevention, visit our full statistics page.

Daycare/Child Care in the US:

  • FACT: 90% of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know. 60% of children who are sexually abused are abused by people the family trusts. 30% of children who are sexually abused are abused by family members.1,2
  • FACT: 40% of children who are sexually abused are abused by older or more powerful children.1
  • FACT: Most children under the age of five receive child care from someone other than a parent. Almost one-quarter (23.4 percent) of children five and under are in some form of organized child care including daycare centers, nurseries, and preschools.3
  • FACT: More than 4.1 million reports from CPS agencies were received in 2017 alone. These reports involved more than 7.5 million children. Reports included neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and medical neglect.4
  • FACT: In 2017, 2,237 daycare providers were found to be abusing and neglecting children in their care.4
  • FACT: Of perpetrators who were child daycare provides, more than 20% committed sexual abuse.5
  • FACT: A mandated reporter is any adult professional who works with children; legally responsible for reporting suspected or disclosed abuse. In some states, all adults are considered mandated reporters.


“The training [Stewards of Children®] gave me the inspiration–and honestly, the courage–to ask my son’s daycare about their child protection policies. The daycare did not have a comprehensive protection policy – not because they didn’t care deeply, but because they simply didn’t know where to turn or how common the problem is. I called Darkness to Light and they walked me through some strategies and sent sample policies. I’m proud to say now that all staff at my son’s daycare are trained in Stewards of Children. Active prevention and child protection are now a part of their staff onboarding and human resources policies.” – Concerned Mom


As a parent or guardian who sends their child to daycare, what can you do to prevent daycare abuse?

First, know that you may feel like this is an uncomfortable topic, but it doesn’t have to be and daycare centers should be open and ready to discuss their prevention measures. There are a few key proactive questions parents can ask their child care providers:

  • Is there a child protection policy? They should have clearly defined child protection policies. Ask for a copy.
  • Does the policy include limiting isolated one-on-one situations? Since 80% of abuse happens in isolated, one-on-one situations, they should include how they handle one-on-one situations at their facility. It should take place in an open, observable, and interruptible setting.
  • How are employees and volunteers screened? Best practices include in-depth applications, personal and professional references, criminal background check, and an extensive interview. How often do they conduct background checks on their employees and volunteers?
  • Do older and younger children interact, and if so, how? There should be separate areas and activities for different age groups. Make it clear that you would like an adult present with your child.
  • Are there clear procedures for reporting suspicions or incidences of abuse? Over half of all mandated reporters fail to report suspicion of abuse. Push for them to provide mandatory reporting and child sexual abuse prevention training for their staff and volunteers.

As your children get older, be sure to have open conversations about body safety, boundaries, and sex. Learn more here.

As a Daycare Provider, what can you do to prevent abuse at your daycare?

As a provider, you have a lot on your plate to make sure the children in your care stay safe and healthy and child sexual abuse prevention is one more thing to add to your plate. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just by understanding your responsibilities as a mandated reporter and putting policies in place, you can create a safe environment.

  • Have a child protection policy, and be sure to include ways to minimize opportunity by limiting isolated one-on-one situations. Here is an example.
  • When screening potential employees and volunteers, you can’t just rely on background checks. Be sure to get personal and professional references, have an in-depth application, and extensive interview.
  • Offer training and continued learning for your employees and volunteers on child sexual abuse prevention and child abuse reporting.

If you want to learn more about what your daycare center can do to prevent child sexual abuse or need help developing policies and procedures, contact us!

Suspect or Discover Daycare Abuse?

Child abuse reports of any kind should be made to the state’s child protective services agency, the police, or both. Visit for more information. You should report if you suspect or discover abuse or a child discloses abuse to you. Learn more about reporting here.

  1. Finkelhor, D. (2012) Characteristics of crimes against juveniles. Durham, NHL Crimes against Children Research Center.
  2. Julia Whealin, Ph.D. (2007-05-22). “Child Sexual Abuse.” National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, US Department of Veterans Affairs.
  3. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Table 1b. Child Care Arrangements of Preschoolers Living with Mother, by Employment Status of Mother and Selected Characteristics: Spring 2010 (Department of Commerce, 2011). Sourced via
  4. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2019). Child Maltreatment 2017. Available from
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2010). Child Maltreatment 2008. Available from

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