Reporting Child Abuse

Before carrying out any activities in Project ROOTS, it is the responsibility of the Facilitator to know the reporting protocols for child abuse in their state and organization. Project ROOTS Facilitators should always implement trauma-informed practices but be cautious as to not assume the role of a mental health professional such as a therapist or psychiatrist, nor should they assume the role of an investigator. It is not the role of a ROOTS Facilitator to rescue a child from an abusive situation, but rather to ensure that the Participant feels safe should they wish to disclose information, to identify indicators of abuse, and make a report to the appropriate agency if child abuse is suspected.

Per the Health and Human Services Agency, Child Welfare Services of San Diego (10/24/17) a mandated reporter should not inform the parent/caregiver of the disclosure as they may be the perpetrator, or they may groom the child to recant their statements. Please see the “sexual abuse” table for more definitions and tips of sexual abuse.

The following information on child abuse was retrieved from the Mayo Clinic Child and Family Advocacy Center:

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Child Abuse Overview  

Any intentional harm or mistreatment to a child under 18 years old is considered child abuse. Child abuse takes many forms, which often occur at the same time.

Physical abuse

Physical child abuse occurs when a child is purposely physically injured or put at risk of harm by another person.

Sexual abuse

Sexual child abuse is any sexual activity with a child, such as fondling, oral-genital contact, intercourse, exploitation or exposure to child pornography.

Emotional abuse

Emotional child abuse means injuring a child's self-esteem or emotional well-being. It includes verbal and emotional assault — such as continually belittling or berating a child — as well as isolating, ignoring or rejecting a child.

Medical abuse

Medical child abuse occurs when someone gives false information about illness in a child that requires medical attention, putting the child at risk of injury and unnecessary medical care.


Child neglect is failure to provide adequate food, shelter, affection, supervision, education, or dental or medical care.

In many cases, child abuse is done by someone the child knows and trusts — often a parent or other relative. If you suspect child abuse, report the abuse to the proper authorities.


A child who's being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused. He or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend. That's why it's vital to watch for red flags, such as:

·         Withdrawal from friends or usual activities

·         Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance

·         Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a sudden loss of self-confidence

·         An apparent lack of supervision

·         Frequent absences from school

·         Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn't want to go home

·         Attempts at running away

·         Rebellious or defiant behavior

·         Self-harm or attempts at suicide

Specific signs and symptoms depend on the type of abuse and can vary. Keep in mind that warning signs are just that — warning signs. The presence of warning signs doesn't necessarily mean that a child is being abused.

Physical abuse signs and symptoms

·         Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, fractures or burns

·         Injuries that don't match the given explanation

Sexual abuse signs and symptoms

·         Sexual behavior or knowledge that's inappropriate for the child's age

·         Pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection

·         Blood in the child's underwear

·         Statements that he or she was sexually abused

·         Inappropriate sexual contact with other children

Emotional abuse signs and symptoms

·         Delayed or inappropriate emotional development

·         Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem

·         Social withdrawal or a loss of interest or enthusiasm

·         Depression

·         Avoidance of certain situations, such as refusing to go to school or ride the bus

·         Desperately seeks affection

·         A decrease in school performance or loss of interest in school

·         Loss of previously acquired developmental skills

Neglect signs and symptoms

·         Poor growth or weight gain or being overweight

·         Poor hygiene

·         Lack of clothing or supplies to meet physical needs

·         Taking food or money without permission

·         Hiding food for later

·         Poor record of school attendance

·         Lack of appropriate attention for medical, dental or psychological problems or lack of necessary follow-up care

Parental behavior

Sometimes a parent's demeanor or behavior sends red flags about child abuse. Warning signs include a parent who:

·         Shows little concern for the child

·         Appears unable to recognize physical or emotional distress in the child

·         Blames the child for the problems

·         Consistently belittles or berates the child, and describes the child with negative terms, such as "worthless" or "evil"

·         Expects the child to provide him or her with attention and care and seems jealous of other family members getting attention from the child

·         Uses harsh physical discipline

·         Demands an inappropriate level of physical or academic performance

·         Severely limits the child's contact with others

·         Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child's injuries or no explanation at all

Child health experts condemn the use of violence in any form, but some people still use corporal punishment, such as spanking, as a way to discipline their children. Any corporal punishment may leave emotional scars. Parental behaviors that cause pain, physical injury or emotional trauma — even when done in the name of discipline — could be child abuse. 

Report Child Abuse!

If a child needs immediate medical attention, call 911 or your local emergency number

By Child Welfare Information Gateway

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, contact your local child protective services office or law enforcement agency so professionals can assess the situation. Many States have a toll-free number to call to report suspected child abuse or neglect. To find out where to call, consult the Information Gateway publication, State Child Abuse Reporting Numbers

Anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect. Reporting abuse or neglect can protect a child and get help for a family it may even save a child's life. In some States, any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report. To see how your State addresses this issue, read the Information Gateway publication, Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect.

Childhelp® is a national organization that provides crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of 55,000 emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous. Contact them at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453).

CALIFORNIA: Mandated reporting of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children effective January 1, 2016 Senate Bill 794 (new Penal Code section 11165.1(c)(1-3): The commercial sexual exploitation of a child is a form of sexual abuse and required by law to be reported to the Child Abuse Hotline by all mandated reporters (Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) - California Penal Code section 11165.1.)

To file a report of suspected child abuse, you may contact any police department or sheriff’s (not including a school district police or security department), the county probation department, or the county welfare department and you are required to submit a written follow up report (form SS 8572) within 36 hours to Child Welfare by fax 858-467-0412 or mail: CWS Hotline 6950 Leveant St., San Diego, Ca. 92111.

California Child Abuse Hotline: 800-344-6000

San Diego Child Abuse Hotline: 858-560-2191

California Reporting Numbers by County

If you need help with personal or family situations, you may wish to visit Where to Find Help.