Being aware of signs and behaviors that indicate something might be wrong in a child’s life is important information for caring adults and mentors, as it is our obligation to keep kids safe from harm and mistreatment. It is up to adults to recognize when something doesn’t seem right and speak up. Knowing how to recognize and report abuse if you suspect a child is in danger will protect him/her, and prepare you to act with care. The Center For Child Protection has collected a list of behavioral warning signs indicating that a child may be experiencing abuse or neglect.
The child is acting differently from his/her normal behavior. For example, if a demure soft spoken child is all of the sudden displaying aggressive, impulsive, disruptive or destructive behavior, this is something to pay attention to. Likewise, if the outgoing spunky child is now withdrawn, dissociative and emotionless this is a red flag. If a child exhibits anxiety, depression, or complains of stomach aches that appear at a certain time of day there is cause for concern.
The child begs, steals, hides or hoards food. The child lacks needed medical care. The child is constantly fatigued or falls asleep in class. Poor hygiene, body weight and height are significantly below average. The child reports no caretaker or inconsistent caretaker at home. The child reports having been exposed to violence or drugs.
The child exhibits physical signs of difficulty walking or sitting, reports nightmares or bed-wetting, withdraws from activities and others, describes or acts out sexual behavior beyond normal for age, shows extremes in behavior, or discloses abuse.
For a more comprehensive list of indicators, please contact Education Services, at centerforchildprotection.org
If you suspect abuse or neglect, trust your instincts. Your voice may be the first line of defense in keeping kids safe. In accordance with the Texas Family Code, any adult that suspects a child is being abused or neglected has a legal obligation to report it. Once you share the information, the Department of Family Protection Services (DFPS) will determine the next steps.
You are not obligated to tell the child you have made the report, however it can be reassuring for them to know that someone is looking out for them. If a child discloses to you that they are being abused, it is important to remain calm and reassure them that you believe them. Assure the child that they are not to blame and did the right thing by telling you. Let the child tell their story to you, but leave the questioning to the professionals. And finally do not make any promises as to what will happen next. If a child does make a report to you, be sure to talk to your mentee’s counselor or your Mentor Director before or after your report to DFPS. We are always here to support you.
Reports can be made to the Department of Family Protection Services (DFPS)
Seedling is grateful to the Center For Child Protection for sharing this important information with us.