Recognize, Respond, Report

What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse and neglect includes those actions by a caregiver which cause harm or substantial risk of harm. That harm can take many different forms, including physical harm, sexual molestation or exploitation (human trafficking), or failure to give proper care and attention to a child to the extent their health and welfare in endangered. "Children" includes everyone under the age of 18 and, in the case of sexual abuse, consent  of the child is not a defense.

Recognize the Signs

Signs of abuse can be subtle or overwhelming and physical signs may not be present. Know what to look for. Be aware the child may not show all the signs or any signs at all. These signs may be indicative of other issues as well. Trust your instinct. Suspicion of abuse is enough of a reason to take action.

Here are some possible signs:

  • Change in child’s behavior, personality, or activities
  • Stated desire not to be around a particular adult
  • Aggression toward adults or other children
  • Sudden decline in school performance
  • Sexualized play or has a sexual knowledge beyond normal maturity 
  • Avoidance of undressing or wearing extra layers of clothes
  • Swelling or bleeding around genitals or mouth
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Sexually transmitted diseases come from sexual contact and not dirty bathrooms or washcloths

Respond Appropriately

If a child discloses abuse, remain calm and listen to the child. Let them know you believe them. Ask simple, open-ended questions to obtain the minimal facts necessary to make a report. Do not engage in your own investigation or conduct an interview with the child to gather details. Doing so can further traumatize the child and impede the investigation. If a child does not disclose abuse but you have a reasonable suspicion, collect the minimal information needed and make a report. 

Report Abuse

When making a report, you will need…

  • Child’s name, age, and home address
  • Name and home address of child’s parent or caregiver
  • Current location of child
  • Nature of allegations

Facts about reporting

  • You can report confidentially and anonymously
  • Investigations cannot be done nor can services be provided, unless a report is made
  • Reporting gives children a voice
  • Reporting allows children to get help, even if the allegations are not substantiated



As of October 1, 2019, there are now criminal penalties for a mandatory reporter who knowingly fails to report child abuse. Criminal penalties can include up to 3 year misdemeanor and up to $10,000.

Read the new law here.