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What to Do If You Suspect a Child Is Being Abused

How to Report Child Abuse


Do you suspect that a child you know is being abused or neglected? Perhaps you don't know the child personally, but you've seen the child in your neighborhood or at a local store. It can be intimidating to imagine making that call and might bring up some questions and concerns.

  • Is the child really being abused or neglected? Am I jumping to conclusions?
  • Who should I call?
  • What information do I need handy?
  • Can I report anonymously?

When to Make a Report

Wondering when to make a call to authorities is tough. Here are a few indicators to think about when trying to decide if a call is necessary.

Physical Abuse Physical indicators of injuries that don't appear to be due to accidents from play or sports. Numerous injuries in various stages of healing may also add up to needing to make a report. This is not a complete list of physical indicators:

Sexual Abuse Sexual abuse is difficult to talk about, but unfortunately very common. The behavioral indicators are more telling than the physical indicators in my opinion.

  • sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease
  • difficulty walking, or sitting
  • verbally disclosing child abuse
  • fear of a particular person
  • excessive masturbation
  • sexually perpetrating on another child
  • advanced knowledge of sex

Neglect Child neglect is an issue that is usually ongoing. It can be neglect of a child's physical needs as well as a child's medical needs. Some indicators include:

  • lack of adult supervision
  • unhealthy living conditions
  • lack of food
  • failure to thrive
  • inadequate clothing
  • lack of medical and dental care

In most cases, it may be better to make the report and allow the authorities to decide whether to take further action on behalf of a child.

Who to Call

Depending on the seriousness of the situation and whether or not the child is in immediate harm, will determine who you should contact. If the child is in immediate physical harm it may be better to contact law enforcement with your concerns. If not an emergency, contact your local child protective services.

State Child Abuse Reporting Numbers

Information Needed to Report Child Abuse

When calling be prepared to tell officials the child's name, parent's or caregiver's name, and location. You will also need to describe what you have witnessed or what you suspect is occurring. They may also want to know if the child is in immediate harm.

Know that your identity will be kept confidential from the child and the child's parents or caregivers. There is a possibility that your identity will not be kept confidential if the case is heard in court.

After the Call

Due to confidentiality you will not be told what was discovered during the investigation. You may be informed on whether or not the case will be investigated or if no other action is required by the agency.

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