Child Abuse

  • Reporting Child Abuse

    What must I do if I suspect abuse or neglect of a child?

    If a child is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local police first. Then call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 800.252.5400 to make a report. The Texas Abuse Hotline is open 24/7/365. (Report via the online reporting system for non-urgent situations only. A non-urgent situation means that intervention is not needed within 24 hours.)

    How to Protect Your Child

    Take the time to talk to your child.

    • Be calm and confident before discussing this topic with your child.
    • Do not scare your child; your tone should be neutral, educational and empowering.
    • Let your child know that you are always there for him/her and always want to protect him/her.
    • Teach your child that the parts of their body that a bathing suit covers are private parts and that no one is allowed to see or touch them there.
    • Allow time for your child to process and to ask you questions.
    • Have your child identify 5 safe people they can talk to if someone ever makes them uncomfortable.
    • Make talking to your child about personal safety an ongoing dialogue rather than a single conversation.
    • It’s important not to interrogate children. Ask simple, open-ended questions in a calm manner: "Has anyone ever made you feel uncomfortable or scared? Has anyone ever asked you to keep a secret?"

    Familiarize yourself with the policies and practices of organizations where your children spend time.

    • Confirm background checks are conducted on all employees and volunteers.
    • Ensure policies are in place that prohibit situations where an adult can be alone with your child in one room when no one else is around.
    • Talk to your child to find out if the policies are being followed when you are not there. 
    • Require all staff and volunteers to be trained annually on child safety and on how to make a report. 

    Be vigilant and ASK questions!

    • Watch for changes in your child’s behavior. If your child is reluctant to go certain places or to be with certain people, ask questions.
    • Notice their behavior before and after spending time alone with an adult. 

    If a child does reveal something concerning, believe the child. Reassure him/her that he/she has done the right thing in telling you and that what happened is absolutely not their fault. Call CPS (800) 252-5400 or local law enforcement to report your concerns.

    Please do not interview children or contact the alleged offender—report your suspicions and let the appropriate authorities investigate.

    Types of Child Abuse

    Physical Abuse

    Physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child, including an injury that is at variance with the history or explanation given and excluding an accident or reasonable discipline by a parent or guardian that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm. Physical abuse also includes failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent an action by another person that results in physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child.
    Definition taken from Texas State Family Code, Section 261.001.

    Neglect

    The leaving of a child in a situation where the child would be exposed to a substantial risk of physical or mental harm, without arranging for necessary care for the child, and the demonstration of an intent not to return by a parent or guardian of the child.
    Definition taken from Texas State Family Code, Section 261.001.

    Emotional Abuse

    Inflicting mental or emotional injury to a child, and/or causing or permitting the child to be in a situation in which the child sustains a mental or emotional injury that results in an observable and material impairment in the child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning.
    Definition taken from Texas State Family Code, Section 261.001.

    Sexual Abuse

    Sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare, including conduct that constitutes the offense of indecency with a child, sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault; failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct harmful to a child; compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct; and causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing the photographing, filming or depicting of the child if the person knew or should have known that the resulting photograph, film, or depiction of the child is obscene or pornographic.
    Definition taken from Texas State Family Code, Section 261.001.

    Signs and Symptoms of Abuse

    The following are signs commonly associated with abuse, but they are not absolutes. This list is not a checklist but a guide to help identify abuse when it is present.

    Physical Abuse

    • Frequent injuries that are unexplained and/or when the child or parent cannot adequately explain injury causes such as: bruises, cuts, black eyes, fractures, burns
    • Burns or bruises in an unusual pattern that may indicate the use of an instrument
    • Lack of reaction to pain
    • Injuries that appear after the child has not been seen for several days
    • Evidence of delayed or inappropriate treatment for injuries
    • Injuries involving the face, backs of hands, buttocks, genital area, abdomen, back, or sides of the body
    • Frequent complaints of pain without obvious injury
    • Complaints of soreness or discomfort when moving
    • Aggressive, disruptive, and destructive or self-destructive behavior
    • Passive, withdrawn, emotionless behavior
    • Fear of going home or seeing parents

    Neglect

    • Obvious malnourishment or inadequate nutrition
    • Lack of personal cleanliness
    • Torn and/or dirty clothes
    • Need for glasses, dental care, or other unattended medical attention
    • Consistent hunger, stealing or begging for food
    • Distended stomach, emaciated
    • Lack of supervision for long periods of time
    • Frequent absence or tardiness from school
    • Regularly displays fatigue or listlessness or falls asleep in class
    • Reports that no caretaker is at home
    • Self-destructive behavior
    • Extreme loneliness and need for affection

    Emotional Abuse

    • Speech disorders
    • Delayed physical development
    • Substance abuse
    • Ulcers, asthma, severe allergies
    • Habit disorders (sucking, rocking, biting)
    • Antisocial or destructive behaviors
    • Delinquent behaviors (especially adolescents)
    • Developmentally delayed

    Sexual Abuse

    • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
    • Pain, swelling, or itching in genital area
    • Difficulty walking or sitting
    • Excessive seductiveness, inappropriate sex play, or premature understanding of sex
    • Role reversal, overly concerned for siblings
    • Significant weight change
    • Suicide attempts (especially adolescents)
    • Threatened by physical contact or closeness
    • Extreme fear of being alone with adults, especially if of a particular gender
    • Sudden refusal to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
    • Sexual victimization of other children
    • Major change in normal mood or behavior

    Information from the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center: http://www.dcac.org/resources