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How to Spot the Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

Published on Apr. 07, 2023

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to highlight and promote collective action against child abuse. Children depend on their community – and each of us – to remain vigilant for signs of abuse or neglect.

Did you know? In Fresno, Merced, Stanislaus, Madera, Kings and Kern Counties alone, one case of child abuse is reported every nine minutes.

Look for these signs of child abuse and neglect and report suspected abuse immediately – speaking up can save a child’s life.

Signs of physical abuse might be if 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


Signs of neglect might be if the child…

  • Is frequently absent from school
  • Begs or steals food or money
  • Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations or glasses
  • Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor
  • Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather


Signs of sexual abuse might be if the child…

  • Has difficult walking or sitting
  • Suddenly refuses to change for gym
  • Reports nightmares or bedwetting
  • Shows sudden change in behavior or school performance
  • Demonstrates unusual sexual knowledge or behavior


Signs of emotional abuse might be if the child…

  • Shows extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity or aggression
  • Is delayed in physical or emotional development
  • Presents depressed, withdrawn, voices suicidal ideation or intent to self-harm


Child Abuse Prevention Month is a reminder that we should do our part in advocating for children by becoming a supportive person in a child's life, volunteering for a youth-serving organization and especially knowing the signs of child abuse or neglect.

Timely identification and reporting of child abuse can be lifesaving. If you know of or suspect a child is experiencing abuse or neglect, contact your local child protective services or click here for a list of emergency hotline numbers by county. For more information on national and local resources, click here.


Get more tips like these by downloading our child abuse prevention infographic from the Guilds Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Center's website. Click to download >>.


About the Guilds Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Center

For the Guilds Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Center (CAP-T) at Valley Children's, the month of April marks a time of highlighting and promoting collective action against child abuse. Along with its community partners, The Guilds CAP-T Center aims to address child abuse at every level of prevention, including when abuse or neglect of a child has already occurred. This process is called tertiary prevention and includes seeking to reduce the negative consequences of maltreatment and to reduce its recurrence. In addition to the comprehensive medical and forensic services provided by the Guilds CAP-T Center, the provision of trauma-focused mental health services has proven to be one of the most impactful services offered to survivors of child abuse and their families. The Center includes a Child Advocacy Clinic, which operates five days a week and sees more than 1,000 children each year. The team is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day for emergency coverage.