• Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect: Signs and Symptoms
    Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2007

    The first step in helping abused or neglected children is learning to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect. The presence of a single sign does not prove child abuse is occurring in a family, but a closer look at the situation may be warranted when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination. If you are concerned about the welfare of a student but do not have cause to believe that the student has been or may be abused or neglected, then you should convey your concerns to the counselor or principal.
     
    In Texas, “abuse” and “neglect” are defined as acts or omissions that result or are likely to result in substantial harm to a child. If you do suspect a child is being harmed, reporting your suspicions may protect the child and get help for the family. Any concerned person can report suspicions of child abuse and neglect. In Texas, the Family Code (§261.101) requires “professionals” (including teachers and others licensed/certified by the state) to make a report not later than the 48th hour after the hour the professional first has cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected or may be abused or neglected. A professional may not delegate to or rely on another person to make the report.
     
    A report about suspected child abuse/neglect may be made online at http://www.txabusehotline.org


    RECOGNIZING CHILD ABUSE
    The following signs may signal the presence of child abuse or neglect.

    The Child:
    • Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
    • 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    • Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn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
    • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention (Note: the Texas Education Code §26.0091 prohibits using or threatening to use the refusal to consent to administration of a psychotropic drug to a child or to any other psychiatric or psychological testing or treatment of a child as the sole basis for making a report of neglect, unless such refusal constitutes an act or omission that would meet the definition of abuse or neglect)
    The Parent:
    • Shows little concern for the child
    • 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 emotional needs
    The Parent and Child:
    • Rarely touch or look at each other
    • Consider their relationship entirely negative
    • State that they do not like each other

    TYPES OF ABUSE
     
    The following are some signs often associated with particular types of child abuse and neglect: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. It is important to note, however, that these types of abuse are more typically found in combination than alone. A physically abused child, for example, is often emotionally abused as well, and a sexually abused child also may be neglected.
     
    Signs of Physical Abuse
    Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the child:
    • Has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes
    • Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school
    • Seems frightened of the parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home
    • Shrinks at the approach of adults
    • Reports injury by a parent or another adult caregiver
    Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:
    • Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's 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
    Signs of Neglect
    Consider the possibility of neglect when the child:
    • Is frequently absent from school
    • Begs or steals food or money
    • 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
    • Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses (Note: the Texas Education Code §26.0091 prohibits using or threatening to use the refusal to consent to administration of a psychotropic drug to a child or to any other psychiatric or psychological testing or treatment of a child as the sole basis for making a report of neglect, unless such refusal constitutes an act or omission that would meet the definition of abuse or neglect)
    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
    Signs of Sexual Abuse
    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
    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
    Signs of Emotional Maltreatment
    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 (e.g., parenting other children) or inappropriately infantile (e.g., frequently rocking or head-banging)
    • 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