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What are the signs or symptoms of child abuse or neglect?


Just as there are various types of abuse and neglect, the symptoms of abuse and neglect may vary from child to child. 

If you do suspect a child is being harmed, reporting your suspicions may protect the child and get help for the family. Contact your local child protective services agency or police department. For more information about where and how to file a report, call the Childhelp® National Child Abuse Hotline (1.800.4.A.CHILD).

The Child Welfare Information Gateway (formerly, the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information and the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse), a service of the Children's Bureau, has a fact sheet that may be of interest to you:

Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect:  Signs and Symptoms

Other national organizations, such as the one listed below, have included information on some of the more common characteristics/symptoms of children who may be victims of child sexual abuse:

(Please Note: Posting the resource above does not constitute an endorsement by HHS nor does it guarantee the content of the Web site. This resource is provided for information sharing purposes.)

It is important to note that all States have a system to receive and respond to reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. If you suspect that a child is being harmed, you should report your concerns to the appropriate authorities, such as Child Protective Services (CPS), in the State where the child resides. Each State has trained professionals who can evaluate the situation and determine whether intervention or services are needed. Many States have a toll-free number to call to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Please refer to the resource directory listing at for information about where to call to make a report in your State.

Last Update: 04/28/2008