Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse

Child abuse and neglect rarely stop without help from outside the immediate family. All North Carolina citizens are mandated by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect to the Department of Social Services in the county where the child lives. You can make a report without giving your name.

What is Child Abuse?
Child Abuse can be defined as a non-accidental injury or pattern of injuries to a child. Child abuse includes non-accidental:

Physical Abuse
Examples of physical abuse include, but are not limited to: beating, harmful restraint, use of a weapon or instrument, or actions that result in or could result in serious physical injury.
Facts About Abuse

What is child abuse

Identifying abuse and neglect

Reporting Abuse

What happens after a report's been filed

What to do when a child discloses abuse

Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is any sexual behavior imposed on a juvenile. This involves a range of activities, including the fondling of the genital area, masturbation, oral sex, or vaginal or anal penetration by a finger, penis or other object. It includes exhibitionism, child pornography, and suggestive behaviors or comments.  

Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is expressing attitudes or behaviors toward a child that create serious emotional or psychological damage.

Child neglect can be defined as any serious disregard for a juvenile's supervision, care, or discipline.


How to Identify Child Abuse and Neglect
Abuse and neglect rarely occur in one isolated incident. Usually a pattern of abusive or neglectful behavior can be observed over time. A child may not tell anyone that abuse or neglect is occurring. Children may "act out" to express their hurt and anger. Some children display no negative signs. It is important to listen carefully to children who tell you about an act of abuse, even if they say that the abuse happened a long time ago or happened to a friend.

If you observe the signs listed below, this does not necessarily mean that a child is being abused. You should, however, pay close attention to the child and see if a pattern of signs emerges.

Signs of Possible Physical Abuse
help prevent child abuse unexplained bruises in various stages of healing (bruises will be different colors)
help prevent child abuse self-destructive behavior
help prevent child abuse welts, human bite marks, bald spots
help prevent child abuse unexplained burns, especially cigarette burns or glove-like burns
help prevent child abuse unexplained fractures, abrasions, or other injuries
help prevent child abuse nervous, hyperactive, aggressive, disruptive, and destructive behaviors
help prevent child abuse unusually wary of physical contact
help prevent child abuse unduly frightened of parent or caretaker
help prevent child abuse expresses little or no emotion when hurt
help prevent child abuse unduly shy, withdrawn, and passive

Signs of Possible Sexual Abuse
help prevent child abuse engages in sexual activity not appropriate for the child's age
help prevent child abuse has a detailed and sophisticated understanding of sexual behaviors
help prevent child abuse goes back to behaviors such as bed-wetting, speech loss
help prevent child abuse suffers sleep disturbances or nightmares
help prevent child abuse has pain, itching, bruising, or bleeding in the genitalia
help prevent child abuse has venereal disease
help prevent child abuse has frequent urinary tract or yeast infections

The sexually abused older child may:
help prevent child abuse exhibit delinquent or aggressive behavior
help prevent child abuse show signs of depression
help prevent child abuse display self-injurious behaviors such as substance abuse, self-mutilation, attempts at suicide, prostitution, and running away

Signs of Possible Emotional Abuse
help prevent child abuse speech disorders
help prevent child abuse delayed physical or emotional development
help prevent child abuse ulcers, asthma, severe allergies
help prevent child abuse habit disorders, sucking, rocking
help prevent child abuse unduly passive and undemanding
help prevent child abuse very low self-esteem
help prevent child abuse extremely demanding, aggressive, and angry
help prevent child abuse antisocial, destructive
help prevent child abuse depressed and/or suicidal
help prevent child abuse attention seeking
help prevent child abuse delinquent behavior, especially in adolescents

Signs of Possible Neglect
help prevent child abuse abandonment by parent or caretaker
help prevent child abuse unattended medical needs
help prevent child abuse consistent lack of supervision
help prevent child abuse consistent hunger, inappropriate dress, poor hygiene lice, distended stomach
help prevent child abuse poor social skills
help prevent child abuse indiscriminate with affection
help prevent child abuse pale, listless, begs or steals food, frequently absent from school
help prevent child abuse falls asleep in class, regularly displays fatigue
help prevent child abuse self-destructive

help prevent child abuse

How to Make a Report
You can make a report of child abuse by calling, writing, or visiting your county Department of Social Services, the Child Protective Services Division. The address and phone number can be found in the front of your local phone book in the county government section, or by calling 1-800-354-KIDS or 1-919-733-2580.  A social worker will listen to you and take down all the information you give.

It is helpful if you can share the following information:
help prevent child abusethe name, address, and age of the child
help prevent child abusethe name and address or the child's parent, guardian, or caretaker
help prevent child abusethe child's condition, including the nature and extent of the injury
help prevent child abuseany information regarding the presence of weapons, alcohol/drug abuse, or other factors affecting the social worker's safety are important

You do not need to prove that abuse has taken place; you only need reasonable grounds for suspicion.

You do not need permission from parents or caregivers to make a report and you do not need to tell them you are reporting.

You do not need permission from your workplace to make a report, but there may be guidelines to help you.

help prevent child abuse

What Happens After a Report of Child Abuse Has Been Made?
Children are seldom removed permanently from their homes. If Child Protective Services decides to investigate the case, they must initiate an investigation within 24 hours for abuse and within 72 hours in cases of suspected neglect. A full assessment will be made to determine future actions involving the child and the family. Help may be provided to the family in the form of counseling, referrals to other helping agencies, emergency foster care services, intensive in-home services, and/or help with housing, finances, medical needs, and child care.

help prevent child abuse

When a Child Discloses
When a child tells you that he or she has been abused, they may be feeling scared, guilty, ashamed, angry, and powerless. You may feel a sense of outrage, disgust, sadness, or disbelief. It is important for you to remain calm and in control of your feelings in front of the child. Reassure them that you will try to help keep them safe.

You can show your care and concern by:    
help prevent child abuselistening carefully to what the child is saying
help prevent child abusetelling the child that you believe them
help prevent child abusetelling the child that the abused was not their fault
help prevent child abuseletting the child know that you will make a report to help stop the abuse

You will not be helping the child if you:     
help prevent child abusemake promises that you can't keep, such as promising not to tell anyone
help prevent child abusepush the child to give you details about the abuse (your role is to listen to what the child wants to tell you)
help prevent child abuseask direct questions of the child (this might interfere with the investigation)
help prevent child abusediscuss what the child told you with others who are not directly involved with helping the child

help prevent child abuse

































Protect Children
....Prevent Child Abuse

If you have questions or would like to talk to someone about abuse, call us at 919.829.8009 or 1.800.354.KIDS or contact us via email.

Prevention Works!

Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina
3344 Hillsborough Street
Suite 100-D
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 919.829.8009
Fax:  919.832.0308

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