I think my 3 year old is being sexually abused at daycare [x-post from /r/parenting]
Originally posted in /r/parenting, but it was suggested I post here... Edit per bot request: we are in California.
My son has been in the same church run daycare/preschool for about a year. At the time, we didn't love the place, but we were desperate because I needed to go back to work and it was the only place that would work with my part time schedule. (We didn't love it because it didn't seem as academic as others, but he was only two so we let it go).
He seems to really like it there. Most days he doesn't even say goodbye to me, he just runs into which ever room they have setup and starts playing. He seems to like some kids and teachers more than others, but that seems normal enough. He occasionally has rough/clingy mornings, but they are pretty rare and seem to correlate with story time on Fridays, but not every Friday.
I'm not sure if some of his new behaviors are unusual or just par for the course for a toddler/threenager. He never used to mind diaper changes, but started kicking and screaming during them sometimes after he started at the daycare. He's always been a strong willed kid, but screaming "I don't want to" and "put me down" are things he picked up at daycare for whatever reason. I thought it was odd that the church pastor would be reading to the kids sometimes when I dropped my kid off on Fridays, and even weirder that he sometimes had kids in his lap, but the teachers were always there and it was always a group activity.
We had some concerns, but nothing concrete and more that he was learning to hit/push than anything worse. Until today. We finish up dinner and I get the bath ready for our 1 year old, leaving the 3 year old at the dinner table with my husband. I'm minding my business, bathing the baby when my husband comes into the bathroom to relay something the 3 year old just did and said. It should be noted that our toddler doesn't yet speak in complete sentences or fully respond when asked questions (ex "what did you do at school today?" gets no answer while "did you paint at school today?" garners an appropriate "yep!" or "nope!"). Our toddler had finished his dinner and, after we had cleaned up his plate, he asked for peanut butter pretzels, one of his favorite snacks. Normally, we'd say no, but he'd been a good kid all day so my husband said "sure! But cheek kiss first" and leaned into our normally very affectionate kiddo. Our son slapped my husband across the face and said "no! Pretzels now!". Not great, but not out of the ordinary for him after a long day (we don't hit our kids, but he definitely struggles with hitting when he's frustrated). He did/said this twice and then said "get candy!". My husband said "no candy right now" and then asked "do you get candy at school?" Our son then grabbed two of my husband's fingers, rubbed the tips with his fingers several times, said "it's round, it's round" and then licked them repeatedly. He did this several times. (Just typing this is making me nauseous again). My husband asked if that's how he got candy and our son repeated the behavior/motion and then put his finger to his lips and said "shhhh!", then put his other pointer finger to my husband's lips and said "shhhh!" (We only ever use "shhh" to comfort them when crying and have never put our fingers to his or our lips). My husband tried to gently ask more questions, but our son just mumbled nonsense and then asked to get out of his highchair.
My husband came and told me immediately and we got the baby out of the tub, and tried to talk to the toddler again, but he'd moved on and just wanted to go sit on the couch. We didn't know what to do (this was around 730pm), so we called local PD dispatch and they sent over an officer who just told us to speak to the director of the school.
I've tried searching this sub and others and have come across a few sort of related posts, but I have no idea what to do. Local resources open in the morning, and we have already told our workplaces that we won't be in tomorrow due to a family emergency, but we don't know where to start. I can't in good conscience send him back there again.
Are we overreacting? Do we just confront the director? How do we handle this? I obviously don't know what or who exactly, but this definitely seems off. Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.
First, thanks to everyone for their supportive messages and comments and for taking the time to reply. We are truly blown away by your kindness and thoughtful words. We are also very grateful for all of the advice.
Second, an update. Our son didn't go to the school today and will not return in the future. We didn't contact the school and we don't plan to at all. We'll be out our deposit, but it's worth it at this point. I have another center that we will be touring next week, but we are also prepared for me to stay home with the kiddos for awhile.
This morning my husband called CPS and they said they only handle situations where the abuser is in the home. Next, he called the state licensing board and filed a complaint. The school has an otherwise squeaky clean record, but we were assured they would be opening up an investigation and interviewing every employee at the school. Finally, we called and then visited the local family advocacy center (basically relevant charities, social workers, law enforcement, etc under one roof). We met with a social worker and recounted the same points as above. When she was done taking notes, she called one of the onsite detectives who confirmed that without actual evidence (ie a verbal description of something from our son or physical evidence), there was nothing he could do. Without the cops getting involved, we will not be referred to a forensic psychologist or have the situation otherwise escalated. As frustrating as that is, we are almost fortunate in a way that that type of evidence doesn't seem to exist (or that we stepped in before it did). As many of you said, both the detective and the social worker agreed that the cop that came by yesterday handled it very poorly, but that there was nothing they could do about that either. The social worker mentioned that our son seemed to be a happy kid, not the withdrawn or angry type she's seen in more serious situations. We were referred to a center that specializes in play based therapy that we will be following up with as well. If anything comes out during those sessions, the situation will be handed over to the authorities at that time.
I think that covers everything that happened today. My husband had to go back to work so I've been at home on the couch cuddling my kiddos. If there are any developments, I'll update again, but that is it for now.
Thank you again for everything, Reddit. You truly came through in our time of need ❤️