May 10, 2016

Child Abuse Prevention: Be Their Voice

Along with being known as the month of flowers blooming, May is also observed as National Foster Care Month.  Since so many of our children who are in the foster care system have been victimized, HEARTS for Families has compiled this toolkit for recognizing signs of child abuse. 

Tool 1: Child Abuse, Defined

“Child Abuse” is an umbrella term that covers 4 major areas:

  • Neglect – The basic needs of the child aren’t met. This includes food, water, clothing, shelter, etc.
  • Emotional – Behavior that hinders emotional development, such as threats or continuous criticism.
  • Physical – Causing physical harm, including kicking, hitting, burning, shaking, etc.
  • Sexual – Using the child for sexual gratification, including fondling, rape, or indecent exposure. This also includes to the exploitation of a child, such as prostitution or producing pornography.

Tool 2: Recognize the Signs

Abuse is possible if there is any combination of these signs:

  • Poor hygiene, visible malnutrition, not getting proper medical treatment
  • Visible bruises or marks, “jumpy” demeanor, unhealthy level of fear
  • Comments or play that indicate age-inappropriate sexual knowledge; pain in “private” areas.
  • Low self-worth, critical of personal work/abilities, withdrawn

Tool 3: How to Respond

If a child indicates to you that they have been victimized:

  • Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues
  • Don’t say, “Are you sure that’s what happened?”
  • Don’t blame the child
  • Keep your emotions under control
  • Be honest about next steps (reporting, etc.)

If you suspect that your child, or a child in your care, has been the victim of abuse, please take action.  There are several ways that you can help, and you may be the only voice the child has.  To learn more about how to respond to child abuse, you can click here.

Source: This article is an adaptation, in part, of information from the “Building Community, Building Hope” resource guide, which is provided by  To access the full resource guide, click here.

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