Child Protection and Family Health

In this Article

What are child protection services?

Child protection services are services provided by government or community agencies to prevent and treat the abuse of a child. Child abuse and neglect can take several forms. In general, the main types of child abuse include:

  • Physical abuse. Physical abuse is when a child receives a physical injury that is not an accident from anyone who oversees their care. It does not have to be from a parent.
  • Emotional abuse. Emotional abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver acts in ways that damage a child’s sense of self-worth.
  • Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is when a parent or caregiver exposes a child to sexual behavior.
  • Neglect. This type of abuse is the failure of a child’s parent or caretaker to provide for basic needs like food, shelter, or health care. Neglect may be:
    • Physical. Physical neglect includes the failure to provide adequate supervision, food, shelter, or safety.
    • Medical. Medical neglect includes the failure to provide necessary healthcare.
    • Educational. Educational neglect includes when a parent or guardian fails to provide a child with proper schooling and education.
    • Emotional. Emotional neglect includes discounting or discouraging a child’s feelings.
    • Providing inadequate supervision. Inadequate supervision includes leaving a child alone if they can’t take care of themselves, or leaving a child in the care of an inappropriate or inadequate caregiver.

What are the risks of child abuse and neglect?

Child abuse and neglect can have a lifelong impact on victims. Abused and neglected children are more likely to have:

  • Learning delays
  • Emotional problems
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Health problems
  • Substance misuse problems
  • Adult criminal behavior

What are the benefits of child protection services?

Child protection services help children understand and cope with the effects of abuse and neglect. They also help these children learn the skills they need to be successful in life. Child protection services activities help lower a child’s risk of having learning, emotional, and social issues later in life. This benefits the child, any children they may have in the future, and society overall.

How do I prevent child abuse?

You can prevent child abuse and neglect by being aware of what’s happening in your child’s life. Be aware of the situations that cause them to feel sad, behave badly, or be rebellious. Seek treatment as soon as you suspect a problem with your child’s emotions, behaviors, or health.

Signs of physical abuse

Physical abuse is when a child receives physical injury that is not an accident. For example:

  • Punching, beating, kicking
  • Biting, shaking, throwing
  • Stabbing, choking, hitting

The result of these injuries is usually visible on the child. The child may also wear clothes to cover up the injuries, like long sleeve shirts in summer, or be scared to go home. They may also abuse animals or pets.

Signs that a parent may know about or be the cause abuse include:

  • Having a hard time explaining their child’s injury
  • Having a history of being abused as a child or of abusing pets or animals
  • Talking to or about their child in a hurtful or negative way

Signs of emotional abuse

Emotional abuse occurs when the parent or caregiver of a child prevents them from having a positive sense of self-worth. Emotional abuse is hard to prove and often occurs with another kind of abuse. Signs of emotional abuse in the child may include:

  • Attempted suicide
  • Extreme behavior (very passive or very active)
  • Actions that seem too old or too young for their age
  • Lack of attachment to the parent

Signs that a parent may know about or be the cause of emotional abuse may include:

  • Harsh rejection of the child
  • Blaming or insulting the child often
  • Lack of concern about the child’s problems

Signs of neglect

Neglect is when a parent or caregiver fails to provide for the basic needs of the child. Signs of neglect may include the following:

  • The parent abandoning the child
  • The child not having enough food
  • The child lacking medical care
  • The child not getting help with special needs
  • The parent failing to provide for emotional needs

Signs that a parent may know about or be the cause of neglect include:

  • Carelessness or apathy concerning their child’s needs
  • Misuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • Illogical behavior
  • Depression or carelessness regarding their own life or health

Signs of sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is when a parent or caregiver exposes a child to sexual acts, images, or behavior. The child may:

  • Have a hard time walking or sitting
  • Refuse to change clothes for gym
  • Report scary dreams or wet the bed
  • Know more about sex or sexual behavior than they should
  • Run away
  • Attach quickly to adults or strangers

Signs that a parent may know about or be the cause of sexual abuse include:

  • Being secretive and isolating the child
  • Being overprotective or limiting their child’s contact with children of the other gender
  • Appearing jealous or manipulative

Any kind of child abuse and neglect can cause lifelong physical and emotional problems. But with the right kind of treatment, the child can learn how to deal with their past.

How do I find help?

Your child’s healthcare provider will check for signs of abuse and/or neglect. If your child has emotional, developmental, and/or behavioral problems, ask your child’s healthcare provider for a referral to a mental health specialist for an evaluation.

What can my family expect?

Your child may need additional testing as well as medicine, and/or counseling to help them overcome abuse or neglect.