How to Report Suspected Child Abuse

Updated March 23, 2017

Child abuse is a traumatic situation for a child, and may result in psychological and emotional problems. Therefore, it is important that if child abuse of any type is suspected that you report it immediately. Knowing how to report it and who to talk to is the most important step in saving a child's life and ensuring his later well-being.

Determine child abuse. Child abuse can take many different forms: sexual, physical, emotional and neglect to name a few. If a normally happy child seems moody, frightened, or appears with bruises, these are certain signs of abuse. If a child seems too thin, dishevelled, or seems not to have bathed in a while, this may be signs of neglect. The Child Welfare Information Gateway (see resources, below), which is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers important information that everyone who works with children should know about, including the different signs of abuse and neglect.

Report abuse. If you suspect a child is being abused, you should report it immediately to the police. Many police departments have special units devoted to dealing with abused and neglected children, and they will work with you and Child Protective Services (or Child Welfare Services in some cases) to investigate these suspicions.

Do not confront anyone. Even if it is your child who is being abused by someone else, you should let the police and proper authorities deal with it. Child abuse can be a very emotionally charged situation and becoming directly involved may lead to other problems including altercations, violence, or may hamper police investigations.

Contact a lawyer. If your child is the one being abused, you should contact legal counsel right away to find out your rights. If you suspect a child in your care may be the victim of ongoing abuse, you may be called as a witness or be asked to give a statement. You may want to at least consult with a lawyer to help you understand the process. If it is your child who is abused or neglected by someone else operating in a professional capacity (nurse/doctor, caregiver, teacher or other adult) you should consult with a lawyer about your right to a civil suit in addition to criminal charges.

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About the Author

Michael Hinckley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in US history from the University of Cincinnati, a Master of Arts degree in Middle East history from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Hinckley is conversant in Arabic, and is a part-time lecturer at two Midwestern universities.