Blog Parents Parenting Tips Signs of Abuse in Childcare: What Parents Need to Watch Out For

Signs of Abuse in Childcare: What Parents Need to Watch Out For


For some parents, childcare centres are godsend places because they can trust the childcare workers to take care of their children while they work. Their children can also have the time to play with their peers and learn new things while waiting for their parents.

However, not all childcare centres are safe, and there is a flurry of news here and here in the recent years about the abuse cases in these centres. The abusers are often the people who are supposed to take care of the children but instead, they used their power to scare and threaten the children. In fact, Ministry of Social and Family Development saw the number of physical abuses cases involving children jumped from 584 in 2018 to 660 in 2019.

It can be very difficult to determine if our children are victims of childcare abuse because they are usually not sure sure in how to react in such situations. However, there are still signs that you should be able to see if your child is suffering from abuse.

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Here is a quick guide to help you understand what child abuse is and how can you determine if your child has experienced abuse in their childcare centre.

Different Types of Abuse

Many types of abuse can happen in childcare centres, and determining what kind of abuse your child has faced can be challenging. Here are the most common types of abuse that can be experienced by children in the childcare centres:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Deprivation abuse


Major Signs of Abuse

Finding the signs of abuse can be tricky since children will be reluctant to speak out about it. Some children also react differently to being bullied, which may make things more difficult to determine.

With this in mind, how can you determine if they are just acting up or really experiencing the impacts of abuse?

Here are some of the major signs of abuse that you should look out for:

Unexplained Physical Injuries

Out of all the types of abuse that your children can face, physical abuse creates the most obvious signs. If you send your children to childcare without injuries and they suddenly come home with wounds and bruises that can’t be explained, chances are they may have been physically abused.

These injuries can be seen mostly in their arms, wrists, neck, shoulders, buttocks, and even at the back of their legs. Aside from these injuries, your child may become skittish and may cower if they sense someone trying to touch them.

Extreme Mood Swings

Another sign of abuse that you should look out for is their extreme mood swings. A great shift in behavior and how fast it keeps changing may mean that something has triggered them to be unstable and not their usual self. Some children who are usually bright and jolly may suddenly become shy, withdrawn, and easily ashamed even for the smallest mistakes.

If this is not their normal attitude towards mistakes, then this may be caused by a childcare worker’s misconduct. There will also be children who will be stuck in their mind and be quiet all the time to protect themselves from people around them.

Others may become very aggressive and suddenly attack people who are not even harming them. These could be clear signs that something is wrong and they may be struggling with abuse.

Fearful of Being with the Childcare Worker

Your children may suddenly show signs of being fearful when they are dropped to childcare centres.

While parents may consider it a common behavior for some kids, if you notice that your child recoils from a specific childcare worker when you drop them, you must take note and be vigilant about it.

Take time to ask questions and know why your child fears that particular childcare worker because it may reveal that your kid is being mishandled.

Recurring Nightmares

If the childcare worker constantly taunts and torments your children while they are in the childcare, they may become anxious and may have trouble getting enough sleep. Some childcare workers may even make threats or other scary acts that would traumatize your child further, and you may not know about it.

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As a result, when your child is alone, they may end up remembering these taunts and cause them to have recurring nightmares.


Abuse can also cause some children to show regressive behaviors such as bedwetting, clinginess, a sudden fear of being in the dark, or constant crying.

For your children, it is their way of trying to protect themselves from abuse and the abuser. However, as a parent, these can be clear signs that your children are experiencing something wrong, and it can be from sexual or verbal abuse.

Unusual Interest in Sexual Situations

If children are sexually-abused, some may show a sudden interest in anything sex-related despite their young age. If your children display this unusual interest, it is possible that they were exposed to something sexual related and you must investigate how they got this information.

Since young children are not street smart and are naturally trusting to grown-ups, especially if they are in authority, they can be taken advantaged easily. Children will not question the childcare worker’s actions, and some of these abusers may even say that it is their “little secret” and if revealed, it may get them into trouble.

The best thing to do in this situation is to sit down with your children and talk to them. Ask them about the situations and analyse the situations before deciding if any follow up action (eg. speaking with the childcare principal or even legal action) is needed.


Sudden Fear Which Cannot Be Explained

Some parents may end up brushing off their children’s fears when they only take their complaints lightly and compare it to a phase or tantrum. However, sudden bouts of fear which cannot be explained can be a sign of abuse.

Abused children may become fearful when they are dropped at their childcare, or create some excuses so they do not have to go to the centre. When this happens too often, you should analyse the situation and take it seriously because it may be more than just a tantrum.


If your children show any of these signs, you need to act accordingly and prioritise your children’s safety. Do not hesitate to take action because the longer the abuse keeps on happening, the lingering impact of the abuse will be more severe to the children.

If you suspect that there is abuse going on, collect evidence and call the National Anti-Violence Helpline at 1800-777 0000 which is a dedicated hotline to report any violence and abuse.

For more articles on childcare, check out these:

12 Things You Must Know About Choosing a Preschool
The Best Preschools in Singapore

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.