Child abuse and maltreatment is when a parent or other person legally responsible for a child’s care causes or creates a risk of harm to a child. The child must be under the age of 18.  Child abuse involves serious physical harm or sexual abuse. Maltreatment (neglect) involves physical, mental or emotional harm.

Physical abuse is when a parent/caretaker hurts or lets someone else hurt a child physically, or creates a substantial risk that a child will be hurt. There must be a serious injury or a risk of serious injury such as a severe burn, a broken bone, the loss of a body part, an internal injury or death. The injury or risk of injury must not be due to an accident.

Sexual abuse is when a parent or caretaker commits a sexual offense against a child or allows someone else to do this. Sexual abuse includes both touching and non-touching sexual offenses.

  • Examples of touching offenses include: fondling, intercourse, and sodomy (oral or anal sex acts).
  • Examples of non-touching offenses include: using a child in a pornographic or sexually explicit video or picture, distributing such a video or picture, or using a child as a prostitute.

Maltreatment (neglect) is when a parent or caretaker does not provide for a child’s basic needs, where the parent or caretaker has the means or is offered a reasonable way to do so. It also includes a parent or caretaker failing to properly supervise a child or hitting a child too hard. Examples of maltreatment may include: not getting, or waiting too long to get, health care for a child; not giving a child adequate food, shelter, or clothing; not properly looking after a child; misusing drugs/alcohol such that it interferes with their ability to adequately supervise the child; abandoning a child; or not sending a child to school when the child is able to attend school. The parent or caretaker’s actions must cause physical, mental or emotional harm, or a risk that the child will soon be harmed.

Exposure to Domestic Violence: Witnessed domestic violence occurs when a child sees his or her parents or caregivers use behaviors against each other that make the child feel scared, controlled or intimidated

What are some indicators of child abuse and maltreatment? You may see signs of child abuse or maltreatment in the way a child looks or in the way a child acts.

Physical signs can include: a child whose hair, clothing or body is often very dirty; a child whose clothing is too hot or too cold for the season; a child who is not being watched properly; a child who is ill or hurt but is not seeing a doctor; or a child with bruises, burns, cuts, vaginal or rectal bleeding, or with soreness or itching in the genital area.

Behavioral signs can include: a child who is afraid to go home; a child who does not think well of him- or herself, avoids people, or is very sad; a child who misuses drugs or alcohol, has an eating disorder or hurts him- or herself; a child whose mood or behavior changes a lot without a reason; a child who acts in a sexual manner that is unusual for the child’s age; or a child who often misses school without a good reason.

Handling Disclosures: Disclosure can be a very difficult process for a child. Children often tell their stories over a period of time. Some never fully disclose what happened.

  • Find a private place to talk.
  • Believe and support them, stay calm and limit the discussion
  • Tell the child it is not his/her fault.
  • Tell them that you are going to call someone that can help
  • Report the situation immediately.


  • Do not allow contact between the child and the offender
  • Do not confront the offender or discuss the incident with the offender (it is better for a trained law enforcement officer to talk with the offender first)!
  • Do not conduct an investigation