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What should I do if I suspect my child has been abused?
If you think your child might have been abused, keep your child away from the suspected abuser and seek help right away. You can report your concerns to your child's healthcare provider. (Keep in mind that doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and other care providers are legally obligated to report cases of suspected abuse.)
Or you can take your child to a hospital or to his provider to be examined for signs of physical abuse. The doctor who examines your child must file a report with child protective services if abuse is suspected.
You can contact the police or call your local child protective services agency (or the department of human services) in your city, county, or state. You can also search "child abuse" online to find the number of a hotline. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline can provide advice and local referrals. Call (800) 4-A-CHILD or (800) 422-4453.
After you make a report, a social worker or law enforcement officer will contact you to talk about what happened. If your child has not been examined by a doctor, the social worker can refer you to one. She can also let you know about support groups and other community services.
It isn't always easy to tell whether a child has been abused. You may notice signs of abuse but be unsure whether your child has been abused or is coping with some other issue. If you're worried, trust your instincts and discuss your concerns with your partner and your child's doctor, or call a child abuse hotline.
What if the problem is at home?
Most parents do not abuse or neglect their children. However, most child abuse and neglect happens at home, at the hands of a parent.
Parents who feel overwhelmed and are struggling may lash out at their children. Financial or relationship problems and drug or alcohol use can be a contributing factor too. If the underlying problems aren't addressed, the abuse is likely to happen again.
If you've lost control with your child or feel close to the edge, or if you're worried someone else in your home could be a danger to your child, get help right away. Call your family healthcare provider, social services, or a helping organization such as the National Parent Helpline at (855) 4-A-Parent or (855) 427-2736. It's possible to get your family back on track and make your home safe for your children.