Child Care Licensing Fatalities, Serious Injuries, and Child Abuse Incidents

Safe licensed center, school-age, and family home child care environments provide opportunities for children to explore, problem-solve, learn, and grow.

Early learning program staff must be trained in injury prevention and safety topics such as CPR/First Aid, Medication Management, Safe Sleep, etc. Despite this training and due to the natural curiosity of children, some injuries do occur in early learning environments. Some of the most common injuries happen on the playground. However, safe environments, appropriate child-to-adult ratios, and active supervision have proven to be vital in preventing injuries.

DCYF is committed to protecting children and supporting early learning programs in order to prevent as many injuries and fatalities as possible. Learn more about the numbers in this chart by reading below.

Number of Child Fatality & Serious Injury Occurances

Type 10/1/2017 - 
10/1/2018 - 
10/1/2019 - 
10/1/2020 -
10/1/2021 -
10/1/2022 -
Deaths 1 0 0 1 0 0
Serious injuries 131 98 90 156 109 135
Substantiated child abuse incidents 30 28 21 15 12 1

Total Maximum Possible Capacity of Children in Care by Provider Type/Licensing Status as of September 30, 2023

Centers 124,142
Family Homes 33,516
School-age 34,255
Outdoor Nature Based 96
Overall 192,267

Serious Injuries and Fatalities in Child Care

Serious injury has been defined by Washington State DCYF as any of the following:

  • Injury resulting in overnight hospital stay
  • Severe neck or head injury
  • Choking/unexpected breathing problems
  • Severe bleeding
  • Shock or acute confused state
  • Unconsciousness
  • Chemicals in eyes, on skin, or ingested in the mouth
  • Near-drowning
  • Broken bone
  • Severe burn requiring professional medical care
  • Poisoning
  • Medication overdose

When a fatality or serious injury occurs, early learning program staff must inform parents and DCYF. DCYF licensors inspect programs to find out why a child was hurt. In the case of a fatality, state law (RCW 43.216.650) requires an investigation and report. DCYF convenes a committee to determine if any changes should be made to child care regulations; these recommendations are sent to DCYF leadership, legislative committees, and the governor’s office for further action.

The number of serious injuries listed in the chart reflects a tally, per the definition.  When a child is injured and DCYF finds the provider out of compliance with health and safety rules, the provider must work with the licensor to correct the issue. For example, DCYF may require a provider to add wood chips to an outdoor playground after a playground incident.

Substantiated Child Abuse Incidents

DCYF conducts background checks for prospective and current child care and early learning services applicants. The number of substantiated child abuse incidents listed in the chart represents the number of providers whose background check certification was changed to disqualified because they were found to have abused or neglected a child during the course of their unsupervised access to children in early learning during that review period.

“Substantiated child abuse” has the same meaning as “founded” in RCW 26.44.020: “The determination following an investigation by the department that, based on available information, it is more likely than not that child abuse or neglect did occur.” Founded findings of child abuse or neglect are considered substantiated findings if the finding was made on or after October 1, 1998, and the subject was afforded an opportunity to appeal such finding per the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (P.L. 115-271).

Child Fatality Reviews

IJ (2021)

JH (2018)

RN (2016)

LF (2016)

SOS (2016)