Know the signs of child abuse and neglect

RBC I Child abuse and neglect can have lifelong implications for its victims, including on their well-being. Children who are maltreated often are at risk of experiencing cognitive delays and emotional difficulties, among other issues.

Childhood trauma also negatively affects nervous system and immune system development, putting children who have been maltreated at a higher risk for health problems as adults.
The first step in helping abused or neglected children is learning to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect.
Recognizing Signs of Abuse and Neglect
Signs in the child:
• Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance.
• Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention.
• Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes.
• Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen.
• Lacks adult supervision.
• Is overly compliant, passive or withdrawn
• Comes to school or other activities early, stays late and does not want to go home.
• Is reluctant to be around a particular person or discloses maltreatment.
Signs in the parent:
• Denies the existence of—or blames the child for—the child’s problems in school or at home.
• Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves.
• Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless or burdensome.
• Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve
• Looks primarily to the child for care, attention and satisfaction of the parent’s emotional needs.
• Shows little concern for the child.
Signs in the parent and child:
• Rarely touch or look at each other
• Consider their relationship entirely negative.
• State that they do not like each other.
The above list may not be all the signs of abuse or neglect. It is important to pay attention to other behaviors that may seem unusual or concerning.
Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:
• Offers conflicting, unconvincing or no explanation for the child’s injury, or provides an explanation that is not consistent with the injury.
• Describes the child as “evil” or in some other very negative way.
• Uses harsh physical discipline with the child.
• Has a history of abuse as a child.
• Has a history of abusing animals or pets.
Consider the possibility of neglect when the child:
• Is frequently absent from school.
• Begs or steals food or money.
• Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations or glasses.
• Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor.
• Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather.
• Abuses alcohol or other drugs
• States that there is no one at home to provide care.
Consider the possibility of neglect when the parent or other adult caregiver:
• Appears to be indifferent to the child
• Seems apathetic or depressed
• Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner
• Is abusing alcohol or other drugs.
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the child:
• Has difficulty walking or sitting
• Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
• Reports nightmares or bedwetting
• Experiences a sudden change in appetite
• Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
• Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14
• Runs away
• Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver
• Attaches very quickly to strangers or new adults in their environment.
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:
• Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits the child’s contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex.
• Is secretive and isolated.
• Is jealous or controlling with family members.
Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the child:
• Shows extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity or aggression.
• Is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children, for example) or inappropriately infantile (frequently rocking or head-banging, for example).
• Is delayed in physical or emotional development.
• Has attempted suicide.
• Reports a lack of attachment to the parent.
Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the parent or other adult caregiver:
• Constantly blames, belittles or berates the child.
• Is unconcerned about the child and refuses to consider offers of help for the child’s problems.
• Overtly rejects the child.
Reporting your concerns is not making an accusation. Rather, it is a request for an investigation/assessment to determine if help is needed.
Some reporters hesitate to report for fear that the family may learn their identity. By law, the child welfare agency must keep the reporting party’s identity confidential unless the court requires it to be revealed.
If you have concerns or questions about suspected child abuse and/or neglect, please contact the Rio Blanco County Department of Human Services, 970-878-9640, and select option #5.