You need to find a daycare center where you can trust that your child is safe and secure at all times. Not only do you worry about negligent injuries — the staff doesn’t supervise the children, for instance, and they get into the cleaning supplies — but you worry that workers may even physically abuse these vulnerable children.

As you search for a center, avoiding this risk should be your top priority. Not money. Not location. Not hours. Safety has to come first.

So, how do you know if the daycare presents an excessive risk? What warning signs should you look for in advance? What should you look for in your child after he or she starts attending?

1. You have to call before you arrive

In no case should you have to call to drop by the daycare center and check on your child. They should have an open-door policy for all parents, at all times. If they tell you to let them know you’re coming in advance, you have to wonder why they want to know. That’s a problem.

2. You’re not allowed in parts of the building where children can go

It’s fine if you’re not allowed in the entire building, as long as you can see all areas where the kids would ever go. If they tell you that you can’t have a full tour or that you must wait in a side room while they go get your child, be wary. Why don’t they want you in the other room?

3. Your child expresses fear at going to the daycare

Even if you don’t see any physical signs of abuse after your child starts attending, a fear of the daycare center is absolutely a warning sign. Keep in mind that young children may have separation anxiety or may not want to get dropped off, but this is different than being actively afraid to go there.

4. Your child’s mood changes

Again, physical signs may not show up in an obvious way, but serious mood swings can still mean something is amiss. The physical abuse has a drastic emotional impact. That shows up in your child’s attitude, even on days when he or she doesn’t go to daycare.

5. You find unexplained physical injuries

Naturally, this is the most obvious sign that something is wrong. Children do sometimes get hurt while they play or by tripping and falling, but these injuries should occur rarely and have an obvious explanation. If the injuries are consistent and no one can explain just how they happened, that could indicate that the workers have abused the child.

It’s heartbreaking for a parent to think about physical abuse at a daycare, but it does happen. Parents must know all of their legal options.