Child Abuse Tip Sheet: What It Is and What to Do if You Suspect Child Abuse

Child abuse is defined in the Texas Family Code as an act or omission that endangers or impairs a child’s physical, mental or emotional health and development. Child abuse can take the form of emotional or physical injury, sexual abuse or exploitation, physical or medical neglect or inadequate supervision.

Emotional injury is inflicted on a child by verbal assaults that may take the form of belittling, name-calling, screaming, threatening or telling a child that he is “worthless” or “bad.”


  1. Listen to a child if he says he is being abused.
  2. Document a child’s injuries and bruises by taking him to a pediatrician.
  3. Confer with a professional to help you address the issues with which the child is dealing.
  4. Keep a journal of marks such as repeated bruises observed on the child for which the other parent does not have a credible explanation.
  5. Take action if the other parent allows a family member or a “significant other” to use corporal punishment on your child.


  1. Ignore a child’s outcry regarding abuse.
  2. Ignore a child’s repeated requests not to be returned to the other parent.
  3. Ignore signs of a child’s developmental regression after being in the care of the other parent, such as in potty training, speech, exhibiting aggressive and destructive or disruptive behavior. These can be indicators of abuse or neglect.
  4. Ignore frequent absences or tardiness from school.
  5. Think because you are not the “primary caretaker,” parent or relative of a child that you have no power or rights to prevent abuse or neglect of a child.

If you permit your child to be in a situation where he may be injured, then you may be prosecuted for child abuse. Consult with a knowledgeable family attorney about your options.

The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has a toll-free, 24 hour Family Violence Hotline: 1-800-252-5400. For more information, visit