There was the infant who died after going to an unlicensed daycare. The man who punched his girlfriend’s 2-year-old because he thought the boy was “disrespecting” him. And the numerous babies who died over the last two years at the hands of their mother’s boyfriend while the women were at work.
After a string of high-profile abuse and homicide cases involving young victims in Prince George’s in recent years, the county Thursday launched a child safety awareness campaign urging parents to ask: “Do you know who’s watching your children?”
The campaign aims to connect families with information about child care resources in the county and what to keep in mind when screening adults potentially caring for their children.
Gloria Brown, director of the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, said she understands the pressures of juggling parenthood along with the concerns of daily life, but urged adults to think through who will be watching their children.
“Please have an alternative plan so that you don’t have to make bad decisions on the fly,” Brown said. “We want to be on the front end of it. We don’t want to be on the investigative end of it.”
The county also encouraged parents to use a hotline -- 1-877-261-0060 -- that would connect them with a list of licensed childcare providers through the Maryland Family Network, which can work with families who may need subsidized childcare.
While leaving children with unlicensed caregivers is not ideal, authorities said they understand it is sometimes necessary.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks urged parents to take the time to look into the backgrounds of people in whose care they leave their children.
“We can no longer afford to mind our business,” said Alsobrooks, who said the county is currently investigating four cases in which children died and a caregiver has been charged in the homicide.
County officials warned parents should be wary of leaving children alone with a person who: displays anger issues; has been physically or emotionally abusive; wants their needs placed ahead of a child’s; is known to you for less than six months; has disciplined your child without your permission; makes your child feel scared; competes with your child for attention; or was mistreated or abused as a child.
Officials also warned parents to be concerned of they find marks or bruises on their child after leaving them alone with an adult and encouraged parents to background caregivers to find out if they have criminal backgrounds or prior sex offenses.
When it comes to children and the people taking care of them, “be nosy,” Prince George’s Police Chief Hank Stawinski said, “ask questions and call with concerns.”