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Recognizing the Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

child abuse

Child abuse can happen anywhere and occurs in several different forms including physical, emotional, verbal or mental abuse, sexual assault or neglect. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring children are safe and protected. We encourage family members, neighbors, educators, caregivers and entire communities to recognize the signs below and report if a child is potentially being abused or neglected. You can also download this one-page sheet with all the signs to help you recognize child abuse and neglect.

Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect: 

Child abuse - injuries Unexplained injuries
Burns, cuts and bruises are visible signs of physical abuse. Explanations for these injuries may be unconvincing.

Child abuse - behavior

Changes in behavior
Abused children often appear anxious, aggressive, depressed, withdrawn or scared. Some may return to earlier behaviors such as wetting the bed or express an irrational fear of strangers or the dark.

Child abuse - fearFear of going home
Abused children may display anxiety about leaving school or going somewhere alone with the abuser.

Child abuse - eatingChanges in eating
Fear and stress can alter an abused child’s eating habits, resulting in gaining or losing weight.

Child abuse - sleepChanges in sleeping
Abused children may appear tired, have difficulty sleeping or experience frequent nightmares.

Child abuse - schoolChanges in school performance
Abused children have difficulty concentrating and have frequent absences that can often be attributed to parents trying to hide the child’s injuries.

Child abuse - hygieneLack of personal care or hygiene
Abused and neglected children may appear dirty, uncared for and lack suitable clothing for the weather.

Child abuse - experimentingRisk-taking behaviors
Older youth who have experienced abuse may begin experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Child abuse - sexualInappropriate behaviors
Children who have been sexually abused may display sexual behavior or explicit language.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call 1-800-392-3738.

How KVC Missouri Prevents Child Abuse

KVC Missouri provides numerous services to prevent child abuse and strengthen families, including:

  • Intensive Family Services
    The Intensive Family Services program is designed for youth who are struggling at home or in the community and are at risk for residential care or who are transitioning out of residential care into the home or community. IFS services will wrap around the youth and family by providing community- and homebased clinical wrap-around services. The IFS program will also serve youth who are transitioning out of residential care and who need continued support and stabilization as they are reintegrated back into the community.
  • Strong and Connected
    The Strong and Connected Program provides a path toward hope and healing for families. It is a nationally and internationally recognized evidence-based intervention. Depending on its implementation, Strong and Connected acts as an effective family preservation and reunification service. It is a 14-week family program that brings families together for a meal and weekly skill building in areas such as family communication, parent supervision, family attachment, child development, parental substance use and understanding risk and protective factors to avoid substance use.

We invite you to join our efforts to prevent child abuse by joining our team, becoming a foster parent, donating or volunteering.


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