The experience was scarring for Stephanie Hanna and she is fighting a legal battle to ensure this does not recur with another child and parent.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 29, 2020. It has since been updated.
When finding the right daycare center for our child, we spend hours looking at reviews, talking to people for recommendations, and thinking about all possible outcomes of leaving a child with someone you barely know. But when something goes wrong even after taking all the necessary steps and precautions to ensure our child is safe in the daycare center, it could be devastating for the parents.
Moreover, the relationship between a daycare worker and a parent is completely based on trust, when that breaks, the experience could haunt you for a long time. Stephanie Hana had a similar experience in 2018, after picking up her 15-month-old son, Westley, from Happy Kids Pre-school & Daycare in Shingle Springs, California.
She shared her story on change.org and wrote, "a teacher told me that she had put her breast in my son's mouth to see what he would do because he was always staring at her while she was breastfeeding her daughter in their classroom." She claims that the teachers made sexual insinuations about the occurrence which made her feel violated. "She told me that he had some of her breast milk on his bottom lip and that he licked it and he liked it. The other teacher standing next to her made sexual statements about my son while laughing."
She went on, "I had breastfed both of my children, but had never given anyone else permission to do so and felt violated on many levels."
She says she does not have as much problem with the breastfeeding itself as the sexual implications that the teachers were making, which in particular, were unsettling and jarring.
So horrified is the mother that she reached out to the police for help but was disappointed, "I reported this to the El Dorado County Sheriffs, who, although completely shocked and disgusted, ultimately could not take criminal action against the teacher because they found that there is no law against breastfeeding someone else’s child without parental consent, which was a surprise to them and to us as well."
Stephanie did not give up, she took the matter to civil litigation where her son and the teachers had to testify, but that too was to no avail because there is no law that would treat the incident as a sexual crime. Even now, some two years after the incident occurred, the Hannas are still waiting for justice. The civil litigation is ongoing. But what Stephanie wants more than anything is to see legislation passed that would make breastfeeding another parent's child without their consent illegal.
"We never want another family to have to go through what we have for almost 2 years now trying to get justice so we can start healing," she writes on her change.org petition. "So I am asking for your help to ensure that it does not, and to please consider creating legislation that will prevent breastfeeding a child that is not your own without parental consent, protect a child from indecent exposure by a caregiver while breastfeeding by enforcing the California Lactation Accommodate Law, Civil Code §§ 1030-1034 and protect them from the exposure to and ingestion of a caregivers bodily fluids with a requirement to report such an incident if it does occur."
"This incident and violation of trust has completely changed me and how I view the world, and not having the support of the criminal justice system has been very frustrating," Stephanie tells CafeMom. "Having to wait over a year for anything to be done also put me in a deep depression throughout this ordeal."
"I still wake up for hours every night thinking about it and reliving it," Stephanie adds.
She had lost faith in daycare centers and says it is very hard for her to leave her son in the care of anyone except her family.
"I don’t feel ready to trust my son with anyone besides his grandparents until he can tell us if something happens to him," she says, "and I will likely never trust anyone enough to place him, or any future children we may have, in a daycare or preschool ever again."
Although she is hopeful that her effort to bring change will not go in vain. In an update, she wrote, "If we make enough noise about this unacceptable gap found in our legislation, we can’t be ignored! Feel free to reach out to your own state representatives as well!"
Cover Image Source: Change.org