May 23, 2024

Warren Demands DoD Address Allegations of Child Abuse, Implement Transparent Policies that Protect Children and Keep Parents Informed

“Military families entrust you with the proper and safe care of their children and demand honesty in how their children are being cared for.” 

“I hope you can agree we cannot tolerate any abuse of children in military CDCs.” 

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote to the Department of Defense (DoD) demanding answers for how DoD plans to address recent allegations of child abuse in DoD Child Development Centers (CDCs). In April, a report from shared the stories of nearly a dozen military families whose children were abused in CDCs and faced issues getting any information from the day care system about the incidents. DoD’s child care program generally is recognized for its high quality and importance to military preparedness, but incidents like this even at a few bases are highly concerning. 

The allegations include the story of a 15-month-old child coming home with bruises, being pinched, shoved, smothered, and pushed up against a wall. Records showed CDC staff failed to notify the parents of the incident or immediately file official police or command reports on these incidents. After a long battle to get any information from CDC staff, closed-circuit television (CCTV) revealed an incident where a photo of the child’s parents was shoved “into her face so hard that her little head had turned away a full 90 degrees as a second worker held her.” 

Not only is this child abuse absolutely unacceptable, but the CDC’s failure to identify such misconduct, notify the parents, and swiftly remove the abusers from caring for children is deeply troubling. The initial investigation from found that military policy prioritizes protecting the institution and keeps information from parents while a public relations response is formulated. 

Similar issues have been reported at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California, where it took months for the leadership to realize that CDC staff were failing to review videos at the CDC, “meaning potential incidents could have been occurring and supervisors wouldn’t have noticed.”’s investigation also found that at a daycare at the Army War College in Pennsylvania, a 4-year-old child “was touched inappropriately, likely by another child…numerous times.” 

“Military families entrust you with the proper and safe care of their children and demand honesty in how their children are being cared for,” said Senator Warren

Senator Warren called for transparent policies to prevent cases of abuse and misconduct, and ensure prompt reporting, thorough investigations, and appropriate actions, and for that information to be made available to lawmakers, the public, and parents. 

“But I am concerned that the DoD – and Army specifically – is concealing important policies that advise on how to handle incidents at CDCs,” Senator Warren continued

The Navy failed to keep parents informed when CDC workers and leaders are held accountable. For example, the parents of children involved in child abuse cases at Ford Island and the China Lake were “kept in the dark while officials formulated public relations responses” and then eventually told that CDC staff involved in the incident had been suspended. 

Senator Warren also argued that while staffing shortages and low pay may make it difficult for CDCs to recruit and retain well-trained and qualified staff may exacerbate the problem, DoD needs to address the inadequate and inconsistent policies in place to increase accountability.

Senator Warren asked DoD to explain their plan to address the cases of abuse and misconduct and ensure transparent policies are in place by June 4, 2024. 

Senator Warren has long fought to ensure quality care and transparency for military servicemembers and their families: 

  • In May 2024, at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, Senator Warren urged higher investment in military housing and child care.
  • In March 2024, Senators Warren, Kaine, and Representative Burgess (R-Texas) sent a letter to officials in the Department of Defense (DoD) and Defense Health Agency (DHA) expressing serious concern over DoD civilians and contractors continuing to face problems with access to medical care and its impacts on morale and retention. 
  • In January 2023, Senator Warren sent a letter to the DoD, raising concerns about the decision to stop providing care to civilians in the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka and asking about the services being provided to help support the transition of care and when space to provide care to civilians might open up again.
  • In August 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Castro (D-Texas) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin raising concerns that the DoD may be misleading or misinforming civilians about debt they incur when they receive emergency medical care at military health care facilities, and calling for improved billing practices to protect patients.
  • The Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included Senator Warren's provision, based on the Financial Relief for Civilians Treated at Military Hospitals Act, to give DoD the authority to waive medical debt when the civilian is unable to pay the costs of the care provided and the care enhances the knowledge, skills, and abilities of military health care providers.
  • Senator Warren originally introduced the Financial Relief for Civilians Treated at Military Hospitals Act in June 2020 and reintroduced the legislation with Representative Castro (D-Texas) in December 2022.

In January 2020, Senator Warren sent a letter to DoD and the Treasury Department requesting information about the collection of military hospital debt from low-income, civilian patients.