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Daycare: What Can You Do When You Suspect Your Caregiver?

QUESTION: I have a caregiver who helps me look after the my 17-month-old baby while I coach my older sons in their schoolwork.

I've discovered some funny bruises on my baby's body once in a while. I have asked my caregiver, who has been with us four months, about the bruises but she replied that she did not know how they happened. I put it off as accidental bruises as my baby tends to be active.

The caregiver has been with us four months and my baby is not attached to her. He usually comes to me and does not want to go to her when I need to spend time with my other kids. Is this reluctance significant? How can I make sure this is not child abuse?

ANSWER: You are right to be concerned about your baby's reluctance to be with your caregiver. There are many reasons why a child may show such reluctance, but after four months with no signs of attachment it is time to change your caregiver on that premise alone.

You are clearly uncomfortable with this person caring for your child. Though the evidence you have does not indict your caregiver of child abuse, it does suggest a caregiver that does not report incidents to you which should be brought to your attention.

The fact that your caregiver is not able to account for bruises on your child may mean that she is not supervising him appropriately or hiding the fact that he is falling down alot when under her care. His activity should be monitored closely enough that she can tell you what might have caused bruising, even if she does not know for sure.

All of your feelings point to distrust. So it is not surprising that your child would not feel comfortable with this caregiver. Your baby depends on your feelings of trust to feel secure and you are not able to give your child this needed security.

Trust your instincts. Your caregiver does not have to be abusive to be fired. Your uncomfortable feelings are enough.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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