Recognizing Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

As a parent, we know you want the best for your child. And if your child (or a child you know) is in trouble, it’s important that he or she gets the help they need. Child abuse is scary topic, but if you suspect it, there are a few things you can do to help break the cycle.

Abuse occurs in all types of relationships and among people with varying backgrounds of age, race, religion, financial status, sexual orientation and education. Child abuse includes physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse, as well as neglect. Protecting children from abuse and neglect is a community responsibility. Most adults want to help, but are unsure of how to get involved. Remember to follow the three Rs – Recognize, Respond and Refer.

Recognizing common signs is the first step.
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 and Refer
If you suspect abuse or neglect, responding is the next step. 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.

The third step is to refer. Contact your local child protective services agency (this is determined by the county in which the custodial parents or guardian resides) to make a report. 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

If you need to report child abuse or neglect, please call Child Protective Services in your county. For a full list, click here.

If you have questions about abuse and want anonymous answers and advice, visit to chat with our Information Coordinator. We are available to help 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. We’re also available to talk at 844-234-LINE or text at 87028.

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.


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