Handle with Care Maryland
Changing Marylandand for the Better

Recognizing Child Abuse

Signs of Neglect or Abuse

Reporting child abuse is everyone’s responsibility. Children need us to pay attention to some of the common warning signs of child abuse and neglect. If you suspect that a child is being abused, please call the local department of social services in your area.

A child might be potentially experiencing physical abuse if he or she:

  • Has frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts or cuts or explanation is incongruent to the injury.
  • Has injuries that appear to have a pattern such as marks form a hand or a belt.
  • Attempts to hide body parts that previously were exposed without concern (arms, legs, neck, etc.).
  • Has unusual, unexplained burn marks, bite marks, broken bones.
  • Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or is afraid to go home.

A child might be potentially neglected if he or she:

  • Has untreated illnesses or physical injuries that present a significant risk to the child if left untreated.
  • Experiences a lack of adequate or appropriate supervision (taking into account the age and capabilities of the child).
  • Has been abandoned.
  • Experiences parental/caretaker substance abuse or use or mental illness that interferes with ability to provide appropriate care and supervision of the child.
  • Experiences deprivation of food, shelter or clothing.

A child might be potentially experiencing sexual abuse if he or she:

  • Has a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Demonstrates sexualized behavior that is not age appropriate and/or is highly overt or repetitive.
  • Is withdrawn or isolates self.
  • Frequently runs away from home.
  • Is abnormally secretive and socially isolated.
  • Experiences unexplained painful urination or defecation.
  • Has unexplained change in behavior (aggressive, withdrawn, self-destructive).

A child might be potentially showing the signs of mental injury if he or she:

  • Is excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
  • Demonstrates extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive).
  • Does not seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
  • Demonstrates a noticeable decline in cognitive abilities.

If you suspect abuse, make the call to your local department of social services. It is the job of the department to make a determination of abuse.