If I Suspect Abuse or Neglect

young girl crossing her arms across her chestSome children with disabilities, especially significant disabilities, intellectual disabilities, or communication disabilities, will not be able to disclose abuse using spoken language. Others may not have the vocabulary to disclose or will choose not to disclose abuse because of fear, protection of the abuser, or not understanding that what is happening to them is abuse.

If a child in your care has a physical injury that can’t be explained or significant behavior changes that concern you, talk to them or ask the appropriate person in your work setting to talk to them.

  • Tell the child what you noticed and that you want to ask what happened.
  • Keep the conversation calm, relaxed, and as casual as you can.
  • Avoid pushing for information if the child doesn’t want to or is unable to talk.
  • Avoid asking “leading” questions, which can make children respond a certain way. Examples: “Did Mary hit you?” “Did your brother hurt you?” Neutral questions could include, “I notice you have a bruise on your face. Can you tell me what happened?”
  • Let the child know that they are not at fault if someone hurt them, and that they aren’t in trouble.
  • Tell the child you want to know what’s going on because you care about their safety.
  • If the child does not want to or is unable to talk about it, and you are still concerned, you can call for more guidance. Options:
    • The 24-hour Texas statewide intake line for reporting abuse of children at 1-800-252-5400
    • The 24-hour Childhelp National Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)

(Adapted from SAFE & Crosson-Tower.)