Parenting Tip of the Week – Recognizing Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

As the first full week of Child Abuse Prevention Month rolls on, we’re continuing to talk about the ways that people can get involved to prevent child abuse in their communities. One way that parents can have an impact on other children is to be knowledgeable about the signs of child abuse and what you can to do to intervene safely and get help on behalf of another child.


Know the signs of child abuse and neglect

We know that child abuse and neglect happens in communities across the country. Child abuse and neglect affect everyone, whether your area is rich or poor, urban or rural, in California, Texas or Maine. Because of this, all parents should know the signs of child abuse and neglect.

There are different warning signs for different kinds of abuse and neglect. However, there are some indicators that can signal abuse in any form. Some of the major signs are when a child:

  • Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance;
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention;
  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen;
  • Lacks adult supervision; and
  • Appears afraid or hesitant to go home after school.

For more information on the various warning signs of abuse, read Recognizing Child Abuse: What Parents Should Know.

It’s very important to note that none of these signs prove that child abuse is happening. Any one of these indicators can be found in any parent or child at one time or another. However, when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination, that is a good time to take a second look.

What can I do if I think a child is being abused?

If you think a child is being abused, the best way to begin is to simply talk to the child. For example, if a child has a visible injury, simply ask them how they got hurt. Use open-ended questions such as “tell me what happened” in order to get the child talking honestly. If the story seems implausible, continue asking questions to see if the explanation changes.

Not at all odd injuries are related to abuse, but only by talking to the child will you know if the explanations are inconsistent with those given by a parent or given by the child to a different adult, like a teacher. If you are still unsure, consider speaking with a neutral third-party, such as a school counselor.

If you think a child is being abused or at risk of abuse, the most important step you can take is to report it. If you suspect a child is being or has been physically abused, please call 1-800-4-A-Child. This is the number for the ChildHelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline, which is staffed 24 hours a day, every day, and is available in 170 different languages. All calls to the hotline are confidential, and by calling you can find more information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. If you need immediate assistance, call 911.

If you want to do more to support children and families in your community and prevent abuse before it ever occurs in the first place, visit our Get Involved page. You can learn about the ways you can get involved in your community this April and help make a difference during Child Abuse Prevention Month.

How have you made a difference this April? Let us know by tweeting us @PCAAmerica or by leaving a comment on our Facebook page!