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Recognizing Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

Apr 14, 2022
Recognizing Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse and neglect are common. At least 1 in 7 children experienced abuse or neglect in the last year, according to the CDC. Every year, Child Abuse Prevention Month is observed in April to raise awareness and honor the important role that everyone can play in strengthening families and supporting children. Protecting children from abuse and neglect is a community responsibility. Most adults want to help but may be unsure about how to get involved. Remember to follow the three Rs – Recognize, Respond and Refer.

Recognize the Warning Signs

Signs of child abuse or neglect include:

  • Unexplained injuries, such as bruises
  • Extreme behaviors, such as excessive crying, truancy or running away
  • Poor hygiene and unsuitable clothing
  • Excessive fear of parent(s), caregiver(s) or going home
  • Depression or excessive crying
  • Poor peer relationships or inability to relate to children of the same age
  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Constant hunger, tiredness or lack of energy
  • Attention-seeking behaviors

For a more in-depth reference tool, please click here.

Respond Appropriately

It is important to respond appropriately to a disclosure or suspicion of abuse. Try to keep your words and body language as calm and neutral as possible. Children may feel confused, scared, sad or angry. Be supportive and non-judgmental. You can let them know that you may need to talk to someone whose job it is to keep them safe.

Don’t wait to make a call. In case of an emergency, or if a child indicates that they are afraid to return home, you should call local law enforcement immediately, or 911.

Refer to Community Resources

Contact your local child protective services agency to make a report. This is determined by the county in which the child resides or in which the abuse or neglect is occurring or has occurred. If an incident has happened within the last 96 hours (4 days), an immediate medical assessment may be necessary. For a directory of child protective services agencies, click here.

You should try to include the following information, although it is not required:

  • The name and address of the child you suspect is being abused or neglected
  • The age of the child
  • The name and address of the parent(s) or guardian
  • The name of the person you suspect is abusing or neglecting the child and the address, if available
  • The reason you suspect the child is being abused or neglected
  • Any other information that may be helpful to the investigation

The Center for Family Safety and Healing fully addresses all aspects of family violence, including child abuse and neglect, teen dating abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse. If you’d like to learn more about services or make an appointment, please call 614-722-8200.

Featured Expert

NCH Blog Author
Tamara Mapp
The Center for Family Safety and Healing

Tamara Mapp is the Director of Program Development and Implementation at The Center for Family Safety and Healing (TCFSH). She oversees staff members for home visitation, child assessment center, fostering connections and adult services. She also provides administrative support to behavioral health and research at TCFSH. Tamara is also responsible for various grants and programs that support the work of the organization. 

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.