Lesson 3: Child Abuse and Neglect


Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this lesson's material students will be able to:

  • Define child abuse and child neglect along with prevelance rates for both.
  • Describe the relationship between cultural norms and perceptions of child abuse and neglect.
  • Identify personal reactions to the incidence of child abuse and neglect.
  • Students will demonstrate an ability to assess the role that family dynamics, ethnic considerations, spiritual beliefs and social dynamics have on people and families in crisis.
  • Students will address and identify the need for self-awareness to avoid counter-transference.


What is Child Abuse?

What is child abuse?

Watch this video (length 6:21 min.) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRkKPMXXN8M

  • Types of Abuse
    • Physical Abuse
    • Physical Neglect
    • Sexual Abuse
    • Emotional Abuse

Factors That Contribute to Child Abuse and Neglect (From: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/can/factors/contribute/)

Research has uncovered a number of risk factors or attributes commonly associated with maltreatment. Children in families and environments where these factors exist have a higher probability of experiencing maltreatment. A greater understanding of risk factors can help professionals working with children and families identify maltreatment and high-risk situations so they can intervene appropriately. It must be emphasized, however, that while certain factors often are present among families where maltreatment occurs, this does not mean that the presence of these factors necessarily lead to child abuse and neglect.

Common factors associated with increased risk of child maltreatment are often categorized as follows:

  • Parent or caregiver factors
    • Individual characteristics (parent/caregiver with mental illness, medical illness, own history of abuse, etc.)
    • Substance abuse (use and abuse by the parent/caregiver)
    • Teen parenting (Being a young parent can be very stressful)
  • Child factors
    • Age (Infants and young children, due to their small physical size, early developmental status, and need for constant care, can be particularly vulnerable to certain forms of maltreatment, such as abusive head trauma and physical or medical neglect.)
    • Health (Children with poor health or medical issues may be at higher risk for abuse.)
    • Disabilities (Children with disabilities can create a lot stress and guilt on parents. Also the physical and emotional demands of caring for these children may overwhelm their parents.)
  • Family factors
    • Family Income (lower income families have higher stress levels)
    • Family Structure
      • Caregiving and household structure (Who is in the home may affect risk of abuse)
      • Family size (larger family may have more risk)
    • Domestic/intimate partner violence (presence of DV increases risk to children)
  • Community and environmental factors
    • Neighborhoods
    • Poverty and economic conditions
  • Risk factors for recurrence of child abuse and neglect
    • Reunification (The process of having a child return home after removal due to abuse or neglect. This is a high risk time for the recurrence of abuse).
  • Co-occurring risk factors
    • Substance abuse
    • Mental illness
    • Domestic violence

Review: Child Maltreatment 2012 - Data Tables

Signs and Symptoms of Child Abuse

First off let me clarify the difference between a sign and a symptom of an illness or situation. The majority of non-medical people tend to use the words 'sign' and 'symptom' interchangeably. It is important to understand what the words signs and symptoms mean,

A sign is any objective evidence of a disease, like a skin rash, and can be recognized by the doctor, family members, and the patient.

A symptom can only be felt and reported by the patient so they are considered subjective (not able to be observed by others). A symptom could be a stomach ache, lower-back pain, and fatigue, for since others only know about it if the patient tells them.

Please read the following article on the signs and symptoms of child abuse and the different types: Signs & Symptoms of Child Abuse

Psychological and Behavioral Consequences of Child Abuse

Please read the following article on the long term consequences of child abuse: Long Term Consequences of Child Abuse

Type of treatment to help an individual who has experienced child abuse - Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Read: Child Abuse and Resilience

Reporting Abuse in Maine

If you suspect or are aware of a child being abused an individual working in as a Mental Health Worker is considered a mandated reporter. Meaning you need to contact the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Child Abuse Reporting Hotline once you have enough information to share regarding your suspicions or information about abuse. Every state has their own hotline number for reporting abuse. Maine law states that certain people must report to the Department if they know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected.

  • To report child abuse or neglect in Maine call 1-800-452-1999
  • Child Protective Intake (open 24 hours a day/7 days a week)
  • If you are Deaf/Hard of Hearing use 711 (the Maine Relay Service)
  • The Maine Child and Family Services line is staffed 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.
  • If you suspect that a child under age 18 is being abused or neglected by a parent or caregiver, call us to file a report!
  • Are you concerned that a parent/caregiver is:
    • Chronically calling a child names
    • Threatening to harm a child
    • Physically harming a child (excludes spanking in a reasonable manner)
    • Sexually abusing a child
    • Exposing a child to substance abuse
    • Exposing a child to domestic violence
    • Failing to provide a child with adequate food, shelter or clothing
    • Exposing a child to unsafe or unsanitary living conditions
    • If so, this may constitute child abuse or neglect. Please call and report your concerns and help keep children safe!

What information should be reported?
The DHHS Intake Worker on the phone will ask for:

  1. Your name and contact information (you may ask to be confidential or anonymous, please ask a caseworker to describe the difference between these two options).
  2. The name of the family you are calling about (parents’ names and children’s names and ages)
  3. A physical address (street name and house number, and telephone number for the family as well as directions to the home if you know how to get there.
  4. Work/school information for the adults/children in the family.
  5. A description of the problem that you are concerned about.
  6. Your knowledge of other risk factors such as domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health issues, etc.
  7. Any relatives or resources you are aware of (aunts, uncles, grandparents, family friends, etc.)

What happens once a report is made?
Every report is documented, however not every report is assigned to a caseworker for investigation. Some reports are not assigned, but are kept on file. Some reports are assigned to Alternative Response Programs for supportive services and some reports are assigned to a DHHS caseworker for investigation. Each report is written up by an Intake Caseworker and forwarded to an Intake Supervisor for review. Contact with the family should occur within 3 days of the report if the report is assigned for intervention. Whenever there are questions that the Intake Caseworker cannot answer, you may ask to speak with an Intake Supervisor.

How do I know what action DHHS has taken?
At the time of the report, an Intake Caseworker can give you a general idea as to what will likely happen to the report (whether intervention will be recommended or not). Due to laws regarding confidentiality, the outcome of the report cannot be routinely shared with the reporter.

Can I call and find out if DHHS investigated a family?
No, due to laws regarding confidentiality, DHHS can not give out information regarding our involvement (past or present) with families.

What if I made a report and the situation hasn’t improved?
Sometimes families fall into old patterns after DHHS has completed an investigation and DHHS is not aware of this. If you made a report and still have concerns, call DHHS and report the concerns. DHHS is always willing to listen to, evaluate and document your concerns.

Child Abuse and Neglect are concepts that are difficult to talk about and understand.  Each day, thousands of children in the United States are abused or neglected in some way.  It is imperative that you understand your role in protecting children as mental health workers.  As a mandated reporter, you are required to notify Child Protective Services. They, in turn, follow a series of procedures designed to investigate the situation and take any necessary steps to protect the child in question.  This may include removing the child from the home.

Mandated Reporter Training - Child and Family Services



Crisis Interview Role Play - Child Abuse


Lesson 3 Quiz

Use the resources included in this lesson to answer the following questions. Be sure to explain which resource you used to obtain those answers.

  1. Define child abuse and give prevalence rates.  Do the same for neglect.
  2. Describe factors that contribute to child abuse and neglect and explain why these factors may play a role.
  3. Describe the need for cultural sensitivity and awareness in these situations.
  4. What do think about your future role as a mandated reporter? What might be some challenges you may face as you consider having to make a call to DHHS about suspected or actual abuse?

Lesson 3 Discussion A (for online course only)

Pick one of the common factors regarding child abuse and share what you learned about it. How do you think this factor affects a parent's or caregiver's ability to provide adequate care to a child?

Lesson 3 Discussion B (for online students only)

In this discussion, I would like you to post your Introductory Video. For this task you are going to create a brief introductory video of yourself using your iPad! Reply to each others' posts with questions and comments. See the instructions below in the iPad Integration box.

Each iPad comes preloaded with a camera that can take photos and videos with. There is also a photo app where all the videos and photos you take are stored. Please use your video camera and make a brief video of yourself. The easiest way to share a video is to then upload the video to YouTube and share the link with your classmates.




To upload a video to YouTube, you need to have a gmail account. If you have not set one up then go online and set up a gmail email and password. It will be important to save this informaiton for future reference. Once you have a gmail account you can then set up your YouTube account. Once your YouTube account is set up and the app is loaded on your iPad you should be able to open a video, click on the share button (box with up arrow) and select share with YouTube. This then sends a copy of your video to YouTube. Once the video is loaded in YouTube you can then open your video and select the share option that says share the link. You will post the link in the discussion board for your classmates and instructor to view. Please let your Instructor know if you need additional support in learning how to do this process.