Child abuse Maltreatment

Indications of Child Abuse &


What should you do first! Call your local police or Child Protective Services.
Need help by phone now: Call the Childhelp USA® National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD®  (1-800-422-4453).

When you have concerns for a child's well-being, the indicators listed below may help guide you in your thought process. Many of these "symptoms" or "signs" could be caused by things other than abuse or neglect. Generally, these indicators do indicate that a child's safety may be at risk and, at the very least, the situation should be assessed by a professional able to determine the causes of these symptoms and offer the help and assistance necessary to reduce the risk to a child.

Signs of Physical Abuse

    Physical Indicators

  • Unexplained bruises and welts on the face, throat, upper arms, buttocks, thighs or lower back in unusual patterns or shapes which suggests the use of an instrument (belt buckle, electric cord) on an infant in various stages of healing regularly appear after absence, weekend, or vacation
  • Unexplained burns cigarette burns, especially found on palms, soles of feet, abdomen, buttocks immersion burns producing "stocking" or "Glove" demarcations on hands and feet; "doughnut shaped" on buttocks or genital area
  • rope burns
  • infected burns indicating delay in treatment
  • burns in the shape of common household utensils or appliances

    Behavioral Indicators

  • behavioral extremes (withdrawal, aggression, regression, depression)
  • inappropriate or excessive fear of parent or caretaker
  • antisocial behavior such as substance abuse, truancy, running away fear of going home
  • unbelievable or inconsistent explanation for injuries
  • lies unusually still while surveying surroundings (for infants)
  • unusual shyness, wariness of physical contact

Signs of Sexual Abuse

    Physical Indicators

  • torn, stained or bloody underclothes
  • frequent, unexplained sore throats, yeast or urinary infections
  • somatic complaints, including pain and irritation of the genitals
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • bruises or bleeding from external genitalia, vagina or anal region
  • pregnancy

    Behavioral Indicators

  • the victim's disclosure of sexual abuse
  • regressive behaviors (thumb-sucking, bedwetting, fear of the dark)
  • promiscuity or seductive behaviors
  • disturbed sleep patterns (recurrent nightmares)
  • unusual and age-inappropriate interest in sexual matters
  • avoidance of undressing or wearing extra layers of clothes
  • sudden decline in school performance, truancy
  • difficulty in walking or sitting

Signs of Emotional Abuse

    Physical Indicators

  • eating disorders, including obesity or anorexia
  • speech disorders (stuttering, stammering)
  • developmental delays in the acquisition of speech or motor skills
  • weight or height level substantially below norm
  • flat or bald spots on head (infants)
  • nervous disorders (rashes, hives, facial tics, stomach aches)

    Behavioral Indicators

  • habit disorders (biting, rocking, head-banging)
  • cruel behavior, seeming to get pleasure from hurting children, adults or animals; seeming to get pleasure from being mistreated
  • age-inappropriate behaviors (bedwetting, wetting, soiling)
  • behavioral extremes; overly compliant-demanding; withdrawn-aggressive; listless-excitable

Signs of Neglect

    Physical Indicators

  • poor hygiene, including lice, scabies, severe or untreated diaper rash, bedsores, body odor
  • squinting
  • unsuitable clothing; missing key articles of clothing (underwear, socks shoes); overdressed or underdressed for climate conditions
  • untreated injury or illness
  • lack of immunizations
  • indicators or prolonged exposure to elements (excessive sunburn, insect bites, colds)
  • height and weight significantly below age level

    Behavioral Indicators

  • unusual school attendance
  • chronic absenteeism
  • chronic hunger, tiredness, or lethargy
  • begging or collecting leftovers
  • assuming adult responsibilities
  • reporting no caretaker at home
rates of child abuse related deaths

excerpt from: ChildHelp at

How Can I Tell If A Child May Be Abused or Neglected?

It is not necessary that you decide if a child is abused or neglected. Child abuse and neglect are not always easy to identify. For example, bruises may or may not have been caused by abuse. A child coming to school with head lice or dirty clothes may or may not be due to neglect.

Yet, hundreds of people across the country are charged with the duty to be aware of the children they see and work with daily, and to report suspicions of child abuse, neglect, or dependency.

Your interaction with so many children, your professional training regarding child development, and your innate sense of a child's well-being, gives you the ability and responsibility to protect children from abuse and neglect.

Recognizing a child in need of protection goes beyond the legal definitions of abuse, neglect and dependency.
It is an accumulation of everything you know and sense about a child or a situation. Recognition does not always come about in a concrete way. It can be an inner voice that tells you that something is just not right. That's when you should call Children's Services.

What Are the Legal Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect?

The full legal definitions of abuse, neglect and dependency are rather lengthy. You can look up the entire text in the Ohio Revised Code sections referenced below. However, they can be summarized as follows:

Abused child (taken from O.R.C. 2151.031): Any child who is the victim of sexual activity, is endangered, or exhibits evidence of any injury or death inflicted other than by accidental means, or at variance with the history given of it, or because of acts or omissions of his parents, guardians, or custodian, suffers physical or mental injury that harms or threatens a child's health of welfare.

Neglected child (taken from O.R.C. 2151.03): Any child who is abandoned by his parents, guardian or custodian, lacks adequate parental care because of the faults of the parents, or whose parents neglect or refuse to provide him with proper or necessary sustenance, education, medical or surgical care, or any other care made necessary by his mental condition.

Dependent child (taken from O.R.C. 2151.04): Any child who is homeless, destitute or without adequate parental care through no fault of his parents, guardian or custodian; who lacks proper care or support by reason of the mental or physical condition of his environment, in such as to warrant the State, in the interest of the child, to assume his guardianship; or any child who is residing in a household in which a parent, guardian or custodian or other member of the household has committed an act that was the basis for an accusation that a sibling of the child, or another child who resides in the household is an abused, neglected or dependent child and, because of circumstances surrounding the abuse or neglect of the sibling and other conditions of the household, the child is in danger of being abused or neglected by that parent, guardian, custodian or other member of that household.
It is important that you understand the intention of the laws by defining child protection. The actions taken by County Children Services after your referral is received are based on what the law allows us to help the child and the family correct its problem.

So, Do I Need To Investigate A Suspected Case Before I Report It, To Make Sure It Meets The Legal Definitions?

You do not have to investigate to make sure your referral is valid, or that it complies with legal definitions. When you suspect a child's welfare is jeopardized, and make a referral to Children Services, you help us identify the potential need for our services.

Your feeling that something just isn't right with a child is sufficient to warrant your call to Child Protective Services. The agency, then, uses the investigative and legal process to manage your referral and possibly open a case.

Five Main Divisions of Child Abuse

Child abuse Maltreatment

excerpt from: ChildHelp at

Neglect     Physical Abuse      Sexual Abuse     Emotional Abuse



Neglect is when a parent/caregiver does not provide for the basic emotional and physical needs of the child on an ongoing basis. Examples of neglect include not providing the proper:

� food
� clothing
� housing
� supervision
� safe surroundings
� personal health care
� medical and emotional care
� education

Children who are neglected physically and emotionally may not develop normally. Some children may suffer permanent damage.



Physical abuse includes anything a parent/caregiver does that results in physical harm to a child. Physical abuse may happen if a child is punished harshly, even though the parent/caregiver may not have meant to hurt the child.

Examples of physical abuse include:

� bruises
� marks in the shape of objects or
� shaking
� burns
� human bite marks
� fractures of the skull, arms, legs and
� female genital mutilation

Physical abuse may result in a minor injury (such as a bruise) to a more serious injury which could cause lasting damage or death (for example from shaking a child).



Sexual abuse occurs when a person uses power over a child, and involves the child in any sexual act. This abuser is more powerful because of age, intelligence, physical strength, control over the child, and the child’s need to be taken care of by others. The offender gets the child to participate by using threats, bribes, lying and taking advantage of the child’s trust.

Sexual abuse includes involving the child in acts such as:

� fondling (touching the child in a sexual
� getting the child to touch the adult
� oral sex
� inserting fingers, penis, or objects in
   the vagina or anus
� exposing oneself
� allowing a child to watch pornography
� involving a child in pornography or

Most sexual offenders are people the children know.



A parent/caregiver who continually uses any of the following when interacting or disciplining a child is emotionally abusing the child.

� rejecting (e.g., saying "I wish you were
   never born")
� criticizing (e.g., saying "Why can’t you
   do anything right?")
� insulting (e.g., saying "I can’t believe
   you would be so stupid")
� humiliating (e.g., embarrassing a child
   in front of other people)
� isolating (e.g., not allowing a child to
   play with friends)
� terrorizing (e.g., scaring a child by
   saying "The police will come and take
   you away")
� corrupting (e.g., always swearing in
   front of the child, or getting the child to
   participate in things against the law)
� not responding emotionally
� punishing a child for exploring the

Children who witness violence in their home may suffer emotional damage watching a loved one being physically or verbally attacked.



Child abuse & Neglect US Dept of Health & Human Services

ChildHelp at

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