By: Bonnie Sharpe On: April 08, 2021 In: News Item Comments: 0

Every child in foster care has experienced child abuse or neglect in their lifetime – that is why they are in care.

Here at Extraordinary Families, we want to equip our communities with warning signs and what to do if you suspect a child in your community has experienced some kind of abuse.

There are four different kinds of abuse: emotional, physical, sexual, and neglect.

 Emotional Abuse Warning Signs

The child may:

  • Be excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
  • Show extremes in behavior (extremely compliant, demanding, passive, aggressive).
  • Not seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
  • Act either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (thumb-sucking, throwing tantrums).

 Physical Abuse Warning Signs

The child may:

  • Have frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts. Their injuries may appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
  • Be always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
  • Shy away from touch, flinch at sudden movements, or seem afraid to go home.
  • Wear inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.

Sexual Abuse Warning Signs

The child may:

  • Have trouble walking or sitting.
  • Display knowledge of sexual acts inappropriate for their age, or even exhibit seductive behavior.
  • Make strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
  • Not want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
  • Have an STD or pregnancy, especially if they’re under the age of 14.
  • Try to run away from home.

Child Neglect Warning Signs

The child may:

  • Wear ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate clothing for the weather.
  • Have consistently bad hygiene (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
  • Have untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
  • Be frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations.
  • Be frequently late or missing from school.

If you suspect a child is being abused in your community, it is important to remember these tips:

It’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed and confused. Child abuse is a difficult subject that can be hard to accept and even talk about. When talking with a child who has been abused, the best way to encourage them is to show calm reassurance and unconditional support.

Avoid denial and remain calm. A common reaction to news as unpleasant and shocking as child abuse is denial. However, if you display denial to a child, or show shock or disgust at what they are saying, the child may be afraid to continue and will shut down. As hard as it may be, remain as calm and reassuring as you can.

Don’t interrogate. Let the child explain to you in their own words what happened, but don’t interrogate the child or ask leading questions. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story.

Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong. It takes a lot for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure them that you take what they said seriously, and that it is not their fault.

Safety comes first. If you feel that your safety or the safety of the child would be threatened if you tried to intervene, leave it to the professionals. You may be able to provide more support later.

How to Report Child Abuse:

If you suspect that a child is experiencing abuse, it’s vital to report it—and to continue reporting each separate incidence if it continues to occur. Each report you make is a snapshot of what’s going on in their life. The more information you can provide, the better the chance of the child getting the help they deserve.

Click here to find your state’s child abuse hotline.


All of the information above has been provided by the Children’s Bureau. To learn more visit their site at:



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