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Child Abuse & Trauma

If you suspect that a child you know is being abused or neglected you can make a referral by calling either one of these two 24-hour emergency response hotlines. 

Local Calls: (707) 253-4261

Toll Free: (800) 464-4216 

Child Maltreatment (Abuse or Neglect)

Four Major Types of Maltreatment:

  • Physical Abuse
    • Non-accidental physical injury as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting, burning, or otherwise harming a child, that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other person who has responsibility for the child. Such injury is considered abuse whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child.
  • Neglect
    • The failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child's basic needs. Neglect may be physical (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision), medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment), educational (e.g., failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs), and/or emotional (e.g., inattention to a child's emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs).
  • Sexual Abuse
    • The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children. Includes activities by a parent or caregiver such as fondling a child's genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
  • Emotional Abuse
    • A pattern of behavior that impairs a child's emotional development of sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance.
Recognizing Signs of Abuse and Neglect:

The Child:

  • Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention
  • Has learning problems that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes>/li>
  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
  • Lacks adult supervision
  • Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
  • Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home
  • Is reluctant to be around a particular person
  • Discloses maltreatment

The Parent:

  • Denies the existence of or blames the child for the child's problems in school or at home
  • Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
  • Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
  • Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve
  • Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of the parent's emotional needs
  • Shows little concern for the child 

For more information on child abuse and neglect, visit https://www.childwelfare.gov/ and http://www.thecapcenter.org/index1.php.


Child Trauma

What Is Child Trauma?

Child traumatic stress occurs when children and adolescents are exposed to traumatic events or situations that overwhelm their ability to cope. Trauma can stem from:

  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Neglect
  • Accidents
  • Separation from loved ones
  • Loss/abandonment
  • Domestic violence
  • Community violence
  • Substance abuse in the household
  • Mental illness in the household
  • Serious illnesses
  • Natural disasters

Trauma is defined by the way a person reacts to events, and often children lack the coping mechanisms necessary to process the traumatic event and cope with it in order to move forward. This leads to child traumatic stress, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The response often depends on the intensity and length of the traumatic event. Chronic trauma refers to an ongoing traumatic event, such as chronic violence or physical abuse. Repeated trauma can lead to even more negative effects on a child, and make it harder to handle other forms of stress throughout his or her life.

All About ACEs

ACEs stands for adverse childhood experiences; these experiences harm children's developing brains so profoundly that the effects show up decades later. In the CDC-Kaiser Study, the researchers measured these 10 ACES:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect
  • A family member who is:
    • Depresed or diagnosed with other mental illness
    • Addicted to alcohol or another substance
    • In prison
  • Witnessing a mother being abused
  • Losing a parent to separation, divorce, or other reason

If you're interested in learning your own ACE score, you can do so here.

Toxic Stress

Stress is the body's normal response to challenging events or environments. Bodies can have a positive reaction to stress, which is a normal part of development and is characterized by brief increases in heart rate and hormone levels. Bodies can have a tolerable reaction to stress, which acitivates the body's alert systems to a greater degree due to serious, temporary stress responses. When these events or environments are threatening or harmful to physical or mental well-being, our bodies activate prolonged stress response. Toxic stress is when a body experiences prolonged activation of stress response systems in the body and brain. This can have a serious impact on development of brain architecture and other organ systems. This is particuarly problematic for children because of the crucial brain development happening in early childhood. You can learn more about toxic stress and its impact from Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child.


If you suspect that a child you know is being abused or neglected you can make a referral by calling either one of these two 24-hour emergency response hotlines. 

 Local Calls: (707) 253-4261

 Toll Free: (800) 464-4216