Education Ministry Information

 National Child Abuse Prevention Month
National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect and promotes the social and emotional well-being of children and families. During the month of April and throughout the year, communities are encouraged to increase awareness and provide education and support to families through resources and strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect. Each year, the White House and many states issue proclamations to raise awareness and to encourage communities to take steps to improve the well-being of children. 

Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect in Federal Law
Federal legislation provides guidance to States by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g), as amended by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum:

  • "Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation"; or
  • "An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm."

This definition of child abuse and neglect refers specifically to parents and other caregivers. A "child" under this definition generally means a person who is younger than age 18 or who is not an emancipated minor.

While CAPTA provides definitions for sexual abuse and the special cases of neglect related to withholding or failing to provide medically indicated treatment, it does not provide specific definitions for other types of maltreatment such as physical abuse, neglect, or emotional abuse. While Federal legislation sets minimum standards for States that accept CAPTA funding, each State provides its own definitions of maltreatment within civil and criminal statutes.

State Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect
While Federal legislation sets minimum standards for States that accept Federal funding, each State is responsible for defining child maltreatment in State law. Definitions of child abuse and neglect are typically located in two places within each State's statutory code:
  • Civil statutes provide definitions of child maltreatment to guide individuals who are mandated to identify and report suspected child abuse and determine the grounds for intervention by State child protection agencies and civil courts. Locate definitions for your State by conducting a State Statutes Search on the Information Gateway website.
  • Criminal statutes define those forms of child maltreatment that can subject an offender to arrest and prosecution in criminal courts. 

Many States recognize four major types of maltreatment in their definitions, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse or neglect.

Alert to signs like these that may signal the presence of child abuse.
The Child:
  • Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance;
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention;
  • Has learning problems that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes;
  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen;
  • Lacks adult supervision;
  • Is overly compliant, an overachiever, or too responsible; or
  • Comes to school early, stays late, and does not want to go home.

The Parent:
  • Shows little concern for the child, rarely responding to the school’s requests for information, for conferences, or for home visits;
  • Denies the existence of — or blames the child for — the child’s problems in school or at home;
  • Asks the classroom teacher to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves;
  • Sees the child entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome;
  • Demands perfection or a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve; or
  • Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs

The Parent and Child:
  • Rarely touch or look at each other;
  • Consider their relationship entirely negative; or
  • State that they do not like each other.

None of these signs proves that child abuse is present in a family. Any of them may be found in any parent or child at one time or another. But when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination, they should cause the educator to take a closer look at the situation and to consider the possibility of child abuse. That second look may reveal further signs of abuse or signs of a particular kind of child abuse.

Signs of Physical Abuse
Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the child:
  • Has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes;
  • Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school;
  • Seems frightened of the parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home from school;
  • Shrinks at the approach of adults; or
  • Reports injury by a parent or another adult caregiver.
  • Changes in their normal behavior

Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the parent or other adult caregivers:
  • Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child’s injury;
  • Describes the child as “evil,” or in some other very negative way;
  • Uses harsh physical discipline with the child; or
  • Has a history of abuse as a child.

Signs of Neglect
Consider the possibility of neglect when the child:
  • Is frequently absent from school;
  • Begs or steals food or money from classmates;
  • Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses;
  • Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor;
  • Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather;
  • Abuses alcohol or other drugs; or
  • States there is no one at home to provide care.

Consider the possibility of neglect when the parent or other adult caregivers:
  • Appears to be indifferent to the child;
  • Seems apathetic or depressed;
  • Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner; or
  • Is abusing alcohol or other drugs.

Signs of Sexual Abuse
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the child:
  • Has difficulty walking or sitting;
  • Has pain, itching, bleeding, or bruises in or around the genital area
  • Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities;
  • Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior;
  • Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age fourteen;
  • Runs away; or
  • Reports of sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver.

Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the parent or other adult caregivers:
  • Is unduly protective of the child,
  • Severely limits the child’s contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex;
  • Is secretive and isolated; or
  • Describes marital difficulties involving family power struggles or sexual relations.

Signs of Emotional Maltreatment
Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the child:
  • Shows extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity or aggression;
  • Is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children, for example) or inappropriately infantile (frequently rocking or head-banging, for example);
  • Is delayed in physical or emotional development;
  • Has attempted suicide; or Reports a lack of attachment to the parent.
  • Become less talkative or stop communicating almost completely, or display signs of a speech disorder such as stuttering.
  • They may say things like Mommy or Daddy always says I am bad, and truly believe it.

Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the parent or other adult caregivers:
  • Constantly blames, belittles, or berates the child;
  • Is unconcerned about the child and refuses to consider offers of help for the child’s school problems; or
  • Overtly rejects the child.

For help with reporting child abuse and neglect or to speak with a counselor, contact Childhelp® at 800.422.4453.

Additional Sources:

Church Location
Courtyard Marriott—Concord
7201 Scott Padgett Pkwy
Concord, NC 28027
Mailing Address
​Post Office Box 481244 
Charlotte, NC 28269-1244