A Troubling Number of Child Deaths in Texas Daycare in the Last Decade

by Terry Bryant

A North Texas daycare worker faces felony child abuse charges after she was seen on videotape in early November 2018 assaulting an “unruly” four-year-old in a Haslet, Texas, daycare facility just north of Fort Worth.

After being advised by another worker at the center of both the abuse and the videotape, the child’s mother believes the center’s management tried to conceal the assault; in December she revealed her plans to sue the daycare center. A Dallas-Fort Worth television station’s further investigation uncovered four more state daycare regulation violations earlier in that same year by the center – two of them classified as “high risk” events.

This is just a recent event in a disturbing trend uncovered last fall which found that nearly 90 Texas children died in daycare over the last decade and that more than 450 others were abused (many sexually), according to the Austin American Statesman’s investigation into the state’s oversight of childcare facilities.

And as the Texas Legislature is now in session, the larger issue of keeping our children safe is claimed as a high agenda item by Governor Abbott and many state senators and representatives. One idea being floated – advocated by a Houston woman, Shawna Diaz, whose child died at a daycare center in 2016 – is mandatory cameras in all daycare facilities, though just where they would be placed (and how many) is a detail yet to be proposed. And the question of whether these cameras can be accessed online by parents is another unresolved issue. Workers admit they experience added stress from such public observations. And some parents don’t want images of their kids available for anyone to see online.

Another idea proposed by one state senator is to establish a daycare worker-child ratio for all centers (licensed and unlicensed). But that idea is rife with bureaucratic land mines. A similar bill died in committee during the previous session of the legislature. One thing is probably a given: the state is likely to re-establish the Department of Family and Protective Services’ highly successful investigative unit. After the 30-person unit was established in 2013, the number of daycare complaints dropped precipitously. But when its funding ran out four years later, it was unfortunately shut down; not surprisingly, daycare center complaints (and violations) noticeably increased.

Last spring, ChildCare.com – a 20-year-old advice-sharing network for parents and caregivers – introduced its “Care Index,” the first comprehensive data report on the current state of child care in the U.S. It ranked all states based on quality, affordability, and availability of childcare services. Texas came in 31st overall based on its sub-rankings of 16th in cost, 38th in availability, and 45th in daycare quality; it ranked ahead of only West Virginia, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, and Alaska. But overall, what these three combined categorical listings suggest is a growing market (since many are moving to Texas) along with a robust and somewhat unregulated daycare industry which strains to keep pace with its growth.

All the news headlines like the one which began this story do draw worthy attention to the general belief that more is needed in all areas of child protection, and the state must play a more effective regulatory role. Maybe THIS Legislature will finally decide to lead the way in renewing its long-stated promise to keep our children safer than many believe it has done so far.

If you suspect your child is suffering from abuse at daycare, first share your concerns with his or her pediatrician. And if any evidence is found, or your suspicions remain, contact a seasoned child abuse injury attorney. The Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law team is available to help 24/7/365. All you need to do is reach out to us by the phone number or contact link on this website to arrange your free consultation.