Protecting Child Welfare and Preventing Abuse: A Guide for Social Workers and Educational Professionals
What Is Child Abuse?
Types of Child Abuse
- Hitting, kicking, slapping, or beating
- Pushing, shaking, or throwing
- Biting, choking, or pinching
- Burning, drowning, or cutting
- Using an object or weapon
- Any type of severe physical action or punishment
- Engaging in any sexual acts, such as kissing, fondling, or intercourse
- Any sort of exhibitionist behavior, such as exposing genitals to a child
- Watching a child undress or use the bathroom
- Taking sexual pictures or videos of a child
- Exposing a child to sexual activities, including adult activity
- Encouraging or forcing a child to engage in prostitution
- Constant criticism, mocking, or belittling
- Insulting, blaming, manipulating, or rejecting
- Withholding love and support
- Not providing a safe environment or allowing the child to witness abuse between adults
- Threatening the child with violence or other forms of abuse
- Failure or refusal to provide food, water, shelter, clothing, or medical care
- Failure or refusal to enroll a child in school or meet other educational needs
- Failure or refusal to supervise a child when they are too young to be left alone
- Failure or refusal to provide love, affection, emotional support, or psychological care
Child Abuse Statistics
- Worldwide, one in four adults reports that they were physically abused as a child.
- The World Health Organization also reports that one in five women and one in 13 men were sexually abused during their childhood.
- Girls are slightly more likely to be abused than boys, with victimization rates being 9.2 per 1,000 children for girls and 8.7 per 1,000 children for boys.
- Children with disabilities of any kind are three times more likely to be abused than children without disabilities; further, they are more likely to be seriously hurt by abuse.
- People with six or more Adverse Childhood Experiences — which refers to all forms of neglect, abuse, and traumatic childhood experiences — are significantly more likely to die prematurely.
- Children who live in poverty are five times more likely to experience abuse than children in families with a higher socio-economic status.
- Child abuse and neglect costs the U.S. millions of dollars each year, with an estimated lifetime cost of over $2 trillion.
- According to the latest Child Maltreatment Report, either one or both of the child’s parents are the most common perpetrators of abuse.
- That same report found that younger children are significantly more likely to be abused, with children under one year of age being abused far more frequently than children over one year of age.
- It also reports that almost five children in the United States die each day because of child abuse.
Signs of Child Abuse
- Has any cuts, broken bones, bruises, welts, burn marks, or injuries that can’t be explained or don’t match the given story
- Has injury marks with a pattern, such as from a hand or belt
- Has injuries that are in different stages of healing
- Has untreated medical or dental issues
- Reports physical abuse or behaviors consistent with physical abuse
- Has bruising, bleeding, or irritation around genitals
- Has bloody, stained, or torn underwear
- Becomes pregnant or contracts a sexually transmitted disease
- Engages in inappropriate sexual behavior with other children or adults
- Has sexual knowledge or activity that is inappropriate for their age
- Reports sexual abuse or behaviors consistent with sexual abuse
- Displays inappropriate or delayed emotional, social, and mental development
- Loses previously acquired skills
- Has a loss of self-confidence or a decrease in self-esteem
- Appears depressed or anxious
- Is socially isolated or withdrawn
- Loses interest in hobbies, friendships, or enjoyable activities
- Is constantly worried about doing something wrong or always tries to please others
- Is desperate for attention and affection
- Reports emotional abuse or behaviors consistent with emotional abuse
- Has poor hygiene or always looks dirty
- Has poor growth and weight gain
- Doesn’t receive needed medical, dental, or mental health care
- Lacks clothing or supplies to meet physical needs
- Takes food and saves it for later, or overeats when food is present
- Takes money without permission
- Is often absent from school or performs poorly in school
- Is often left alone or left with other young children
- Reports neglect or behaviors consistent with neglect
- Shows little or no concern for their child
- Uses harsh discipline and punishments, especially physical ones
- Blames the child for all of their problems
- Constantly and publicly belittles, mocks, or insults their child
- Does not notice or does not care about their child’s physical or emotional distress
- Sets unreasonable or impossible standards for their child, especially for academic performance or in extracurricular activities
- Provides contradictory or clearly false explanations for a child’s injuries
- Abuses alcohol or drugs
- Has a history of abuse or violent behavior
Protective & Risk Factors for Child Abuse
- Was an unplanned child or unwanted by parents
- Is younger than four years old
- Was born prematurely or with other birth anomalies
- Has any sort of disability or chronic condition
- Has behavioral difficulties or a challenging temperament
- Has already experienced some kind of childhood trauma
- Is socially isolated from friends and community
- Experiences continual high levels of stress
- Is a single parent lacking help or support
- Is separated or divorced from the child’s other parent
- Has a history of untreated mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression
- Is unemployed or experiencing homelessness
- Has a history of or is currently involved in criminal or illegal activities
- Has a poor or difficult relationship with the child
- Abuse, conflict, or violence between parents
- Has an unrealistic idea or lacks knowledge of proper child development
- Abuse of drugs and alcohol by parents or caretaker
- Was abused as a child
- Has a history of abuse of animals, romantic partners, family members, or other children
- Violence in the neighborhood or community
- Lacks access to medical care, social services, or childcare
- Has limited educational options or attends poor schools
- Lives in a low socioeconomic area
- Is exposed to harassment and discrimination
- Is exposed to environmental toxins or other unhealthy living conditions
- Lives in a disadvantaged neighborhood or area
- Is in good health and meeting common childhood development milestones
- Has their own hobbies, interests, and social life
- Maintains strong relationships with their peers and has community support
- Has positive self-esteem and good coping skills
- Has a positive relationship with parents and other family members
- Has supportive family members and a positive household environment
- Can provide basic needs for safety, health, and comfort of the child
- Has healthy boundaries, rules, and structure
- Has a community of support, extended family members, and caregivers
- Has knowledge of childhood development
- Maintains stable employment
- Has healthy coping skills and models positive behaviors
- Lives in a mid- or high-level socio-economic area
- Has access to healthcare and social services
- Attends good schools
- Has a strong and supportive community
Who Can Protect Child Welfare?
Special Education Professionals
What to Do if You Suspect Child Abuse
How to Report Child Abuse
How to Offer Support After Abuse
Additional Resources and Further Reading
- AVANCE: This nonprofit organization works to strengthen low-income families by helping them overcome isolation and lack of opportunity.
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: A service offered by the federal Children’s Bureau, this website aims to protect the welfare of children with educational materials and resources.
- CyberTipline: This hotline takes reports of online exploitation of children, and will help reporters determine the best law enforcement agency or authority to contact.
- GenerationFIVE: This organization’s goal is to put an end to child sexual abuse within the next five generations.
- International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect: This is the world’s only international organization that connects different professionals to prevent child abuse.
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Created by Congress as part of the Children’s Health Act, this organization works to improve access to the services that traumatized children, their families, and their communities need.
- Parents Anonymous: This organization helps strengthen family bonds to help prevent abuse and neglect before it ever happens.
- Prevent Child Abuse America: This nonprofit organization works to prevent child abuse and neglect, and improve the health and wellbeing of children across the U.S.
- The Resilience Project: This organization works to help build up the resiliency of and support children who have been exposed to violence, adverse childhood events, and trauma.
- Stop It Now!: This nonprofit group works to prevent child sexual abuse by strengthening and educating communities all around the country.