What Child Care Providers Need to Know about Identifying Abuse and Neglect

Sad toddler boy

Child care providers are often the first people to notice that a child is being abused or neglected. Because child care providers spend so much time each day with children, they are likely to notice physical signs of possible abuse, such as bruises or burns, as well as changes in behavior that might indicate abuse.

In order to help children who are being abused or neglected, child care providers can learn how to recognize the signs or symptoms of different types of abuse. There are four basic types of child abuse:

  • Physical abuse is any kind of physical harm to a child that is not accidental. Physical abuse may include hitting, shaking, throwing or shoving a child.
  • Emotional abuse is the intentional humiliation or belittling of a child. Emotional abuse may be hard to identify because it does not usually leave physical signs.
  • Sexual abuse is any type of sexual behavior with a child. Sexual abuse includes fondling, rape, incest, child pornography and exhibitionism.
  • Neglect is the failure to meet a child’s basic physical, medical, emotional or educational needs.

These types of abuse are typically found in combination. A physically abused child often is emotionally abused as well, and a sexually abused child also may be neglected. Children may show physical signs of abuse, such as bruises or broken bones, or behavioral signs, including fear of a specific person or inappropriate sexual knowledge.

Many common signs of abuse are also signs of other stressors in a child’s life. Signs of abuse most often happen in clusters. A child who shows a single sign may not be suffering abuse. It is especially important to pay attention when signs of abuse appear repeatedly or in combination.

For More Information

To learn more about the signs of specific types of abuse, check out the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles.