child abuse
intervention fund

Child Abuse Information - FAQ 

Child Abuse Information - Signs of Child Abuse 

How can I know if a child is possibly being abused?

Family and domestic violence is strongly associated with child abuse and neglect. In families where domestic violence occurs, there is an increased risk that basic childhood needs will not be met including the need for care and protection.
Witnessing violence between parents, or being involved in a violent act between adults in the home, can have a serious impact on the emotional well-being and development of children and young people. It can impact on self-image, responses to other people, and ability to form healthy relationships as adults. It denies a sense of security and safety to children and young people, teaches them that violence is a solution to problems and may lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Family and domestic violence fits within the definitions of child abuse when it is clear that the child or young person's physical, emotion and psychological development is affected.
If you are concerned about the well-being and/or safety of a child or young person and can identify a cluster of indications in relation to the child, you should contact Child Protective Services in your community, or some other experienced professional or agency. When their safety is at risk, children and young people rely on responsible adults to act protectively on their behalf. They cannot  protect themselves.
Physical Abuse
Physical abuse occurs when a child or young person is deliberately hurt, or is at serious risk of being physically hurt, by the actions of their parents or caregivers. This can be the result of actions such as punching, kicking, shaking, throwing, scalding/burning, or strangling. It can also be the result of repeated excessive physical discipline. The injuries are not considered accidental.
Possible indicators of physical abuse:
Broken bones or unexplained bruises, burns, or welts in various stages of healing
The child or young person is unable to explain an injury, or explanations given are inconsistent, vague, bizarre, or changing
Direct admissions from the parents that they are concerned that they might harm their child
Family history of violence
Marked delay between injury and obtaining medical assistance
Parents who show little concern about the welfare of their child or the treatment and care of the injury
Repeated presentations of the child to health services with injuries, ingestions, or minor complaints
The child or young person is unusually frightened of a parent or caregiver, or is afraid to go home
The child or young person reports intentional injury by their parent or caregiver
Arms and legs are kept covered by inappropriate clothing in warm conditions
Ingestion of poisonous substances, including alcohol or drugs
Avoidance of physical contact by the child (particularly with a parent or caregiver)



Neglect is the failure to provide a level of care that meets a child or young person's developmental, emotional and physical needs. It also includes the failure to provide adequate medical, therapeutic or remedial treatment.

Possible indicators of neglect:

Signs of malnutrition, begging, stealing, or hoarding food

Poor hygiene: matted hair, dirty skin, or severe body odor

Unattended physical or medical problems

The child or young person states that no one is home to provide care (inadequate supervision, failure to ensure safety)

Child or young person appears constantly tired

Frequent lateness to or absence from school

Inappropriate clothing, especially inadequate clothing in winter

Alcohol and/or drug abuse present in the household

Frequent illness, low-grade infections or sores



Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse involves the exposure of children and young people to inappropriate sexual activity by either forcing them to be involved in sexual acts or witnessing the sexual activity of others, either by reading or viewing pornographic material or through direct observation.

Possible indicators of sexual abuse:

Sexualized behaviors inappropriate to their age (including sexually touching other children and themselves)

Knowledge of sexual behavior inappropriate to their years

Disclosure of abuse either directly or indirectly through drawings, play, or writing that describes abuse

Pain or bleeding in the anal or genital area with redness or swelling

Fear of being alone with a particular person

Child or young person implies that he/she is required to keep secrets

Presence of sexually transmitted disease

Sudden unexplained fears

Bedwetting or bed soiling


Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse accompanies all forms of abuse/neglect but can exist on its own as a specific type of abuse. Emotional abuse is harm caused by behaviors such as severe verbal abuse, continual rejection, use of physical or social isolation, threats of abuse, harassment, frightening or bullying actions.

Possible indicators of emotional abuse:

The parent or guardian constantly criticizes, threatens, belittles, insults, or rejects the child or young person with no evidence of love, support, or guidance

The child/young person exhibits extremes in behavior from overly aggressive to overly passive

Delayed physical, emotional, or intellectual development

Compulsive lying and stealing

High levels of anxiety

Lack of trust in people

Feelings of worthlessness about life and themselves

Eating hungrily or hardly at all

Uncharacteristic seeking of attention or affection

Reluctance to go home

Rocking, sucking thumbs, or self-harming behavior

Fearfulness when approached by a person known to them


Child Abuse Intervention Fund is an affiliate of Worldwide Affiliated Ministries, which provides personnel and management services free of charge. Because of this connection, CAIF’s overhead was kept to a low 0.7% last year.