Family Compass
Empowering families to build a better tomorrow for their children.

How to Report Child Abuse

What do I do if I suspect abuse?

If a child discloses that he or she has been abused by someone, it is important that you listen to them most of all.

Report It!

  • Call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or if the child is in immediate danger CALL 911 – You may remain anonymous.
  • Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is punishable by imprisonment of up to 180 days and/or a fine of up to $1,000. (Texas Family Code, Chapter 34).
  • Reports from professionals and concerned citizens are received by child protective services (CPS) staff alerting them to concerns about a child's welfare.
  • You may also file a report of suspected abuse using a secure web site:

Be prepared to provide the following information:

1.   Child’s name, age and address

2.   Brief description of the child

3.   Current injuries, medical problems or behavioral problems

4.   Parents’ names and names of siblings in the home


  • Investigate – leave this to the professionals.
  • Ask leading questions (a question that suggests the answer or contains the information the questioner is looking for – That man touched you, didn’t he?).
  • Make promises.
  • Notify the parents or the caretaker.


  • Provide a safe environment (be comforting, welcoming, and a good listener).
  • Tell the child it was not his/her fault.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Document the child’s exact quotes.
  • Be supportive, not judgmental.
  • Know your limits.
  • Tell the truth and make no promises.

Ask ONLY four questions:

1.   What happened?

2.   Who did this to you?

3.   Where were you when this happened?

4.   When did this happen?

Asking any additional questions may contaminate a case!

Signs & Symptoms of Abuse

Signs of Physical Abuse

  • Unexplainable changes in the child’s body or behavior.
  • Any injury (bruise, burn, fracture, abdominal or head injury) that cannot be explained.
  • Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
  • Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
  • Appears to be afraid of adults
  • Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, i.e. long-sleeved shirts on hot days.
  • School failure.
  • Headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause

Signs of Emotional Abuse

  • Behavioral change tends to reflect the anxiety that results from a stressful situation of any type
  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Lack of Concentration
  • Reports a Lack of attachment to the parent
  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong
  • Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantruming
  • Extremely passive or aggressive behavior

Signs of Sexual Abuse

  • Extreme sexual behavior that seems inappropriate for the child’s age.
  • Genital pain or bleeding, as well as a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
  • Runs away from home