Child Abuse

Screening Children

Read Ethics and Privacy. It is recommended to look at the overall picture from multiple sources, and not make a conclusion from a single piece of information. Initially interview parent and child together, but if abuse is suspected, ask parent permission to interview child separately. If parent refuses, this is a red flag and document.

Asking parents

Pre-verbal/pre-school children

Note clues in Signs & Symptoms as well as how children act during play or what they draw.  Are they physically abusive of dolls or materials?  Do dolls hurt each other, or play sexually? What is the interaction between parent and child?

Verbal children - asking questions

Avoid asking leading questions.  If sexual abuse is suspected, leave detailed questions for professional interviewers.  It is best to have a general conversation where the child discloses spontaneously, and note the child’s voice changes, eye contact, breathing patterns and change of subject when describing situations or people.  Limit your questions to only what is necessary for you to feel there is reasonable suspicion to make a report, so that the child isn’t put through multiple extensive interviews.

Verbal children – discussing domestic abuse

Children may have a variety of responses toward domestic abuse, such as fear, guilt, anger, sadness, or helplessness. They may escape through fantasy, talk to stuffed animals, hide, become hyper vigilant, etc.

[Adapted from California Child Abuse & Neglect Reporting Law: Issues and Answers for Mandated Reporters, and Identifying and Responding to Domestic Violence: Consensus Recommendations for Child and Adolescent Health - see resources]


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