NEW PLYMOUTH — For parents, it can be difficult to leave their children in the hands of total strangers, especially with everything going on in today’s society. However, it generally takes both parents working in order to make ends meet, and they have no choice but to drop their child off at daycare and hope for the best.

For the most part, the worst that could possibly happen is a scrape on the knee or elbow while playing outdoors or perhaps an occasional nosebleed. While most daycare centers are a safe place for children, there’s always that “one” daycare that is the exception.

Just this week, a Hocking County woman was sentenced after being convicted of abusing children at her unlicensed daycare center in Grove City. Kimberly Hignite, now a resident of New Plymouth, will spend the next 30 days at a Richland County jail and pay for the cost of her imprisonment as well as a $4,200 fine.

Hignite was originally indicted on 22 charges including five counts of gross sexual imposition, third-degree felonies; and 17 counts of endangering children, first-degree misdemeanors. However, during a hearing in Franklin County Common Pleas Court on Monday, Hignite pled guilty to 14 counts of endangering children.

According to the court documents, upon application of the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney, it was ordered that a Nolle Prosequi be entered for the remainder charges — of which there are eight. Nolle Prosequi is a Latin term meaning “will no longer prosecute” or in other terms — it’s a dismissal of the charges by the prosecution.

Some of the charges were dismissed due to families not cooperating with prosecution; however, there were five mothers that faced Hignite in court Monday, telling their stories of how Hignite’s actions has affected their children and families.

It was reported that one child developed a hair-pulling habit, while others were strapped in car seats left unattended for hours. It was also noted that several children reported sexual abuse.

The Logan Daily News reached out to a parent that had her daughter at the daycare for only four days and started noticing a difference in the child’s behavior. According to the mother, the five-year-old child started acting out at home, which was out of the norm. She began bed-wetting, which she had never done before, and became quite withdrawn from everyone, which was very unusual for the child.

The mother said prior to the time spent at the daycare, her daughter never knew a stranger and always trusted people. However, that trust was quickly broken with just four trips to Hignite’s daycare facility.

“She always talked about her day with us,” the mom said. “But she became withdrawn and didn’t want to talk, which is very unlike her.”

It wasn’t until the young girl saw Hignite’s picture on television one night and asked her mother — “Why is Miss Kim’s picture on TV?”

The mother explained that “Miss Kim” had done some bad things and was being investigated. Her daughter looked at her and said, “So, Miss Kim can’t hurt me anymore?”

While there had been red flags prior to this particular night, this was definitely what sent this mother over the edge — this is when the mother heard for the first time that “Miss Kim” had allegedly touched her daughter inappropriately. Her heart sank and she became overwhelmed with sadness for what her daughter had endured.

“This was devastating, heartbreaking to hear — for any parent to hear,” the mother commented. “You trust people and this is what happens.”

According to the mother, now two years later, the child is still having nightmares, night terrors and a difficult time trusting people. The family is now seeking counseling to help their daughter cope.

“Hopefully my daughter won’t have issues later in life,” she added. “I fear that she will though.”

Parents entrust daycare facilities to take care of their children on a daily basis, but what do you do if you suspect abuse? It’s something you see more and more in the news these days; however, you never expect it to happen to you and your child.

Children are trusting and are more easily influenced and manipulated by an adult looking to take advantage of them. Oftentimes, the abuser will tell the children not to tell anyone because they may get in trouble or may tell them — this is our little secret.

Signs of child abuse:

• Change in behavior or mood swings.

• Showing fear or anxiety toward the daycare.

• Unexplained bruises, welts, cuts.

• Night terrors or recurring nightmares.

• Urinary tract infections or soreness around the genitals.

• Reverting to infantile behavior such as excessive clinginess, bed-wetting, thumb sucking, etc.

“Parents, trust your instincts,” the mother stated. “If there are any red flags, GET OUT! Trust your gut feelings — GET OUT!”

The mother also suggests prior to leaving your child with a daycare provider to run an extensive background check not only on the facility itself, but also the person/s running the facility.

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