Reasonable suspicion for reporting child abuse often falls on teachers, coaches, school employees, doctors or other mandated reporters. Parents, parents of a child's friend or relatives are examples of discretionary reporters. There are four types of child abuse: physical, sexual, neglect and emotional.

Here are some warning signs that a child may have been abused.

Physical clues

  • Facial injuries (black eyes, swollen lips)

  • Multiple injuries in different stages of healing

  • Unattended medical problems or infections

  • Stained, torn, or filthy clothing or underclothing

  • Bruises or trauma on back, buttocks, or thighs

  • Repeated series of bruises or broken bones

  • Burns from objects or scalding water

  • Painful urination or defecation

  • Pain or injury around genital area

  • Signs of malnutrition (thin, fainting, hunger)

  • Sexually transmitted disease

  • Significant increase in physical complaints

  • Rope burns

  • Bite marks

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Extremely offensive odor

    Behavioral clues

  • Extreme anxiety, guilt or shame

  • Unexplained crying

  • Difficulty sleeping or recurrent nightmares

  • Rregressive behavior (acting much younger)

  • Clinginess or acting excessively responsible


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  • Fear of certain adults

  • Extreme dependency on other adults

  • Increasing isolation and withdrawal

  • Running away from home

  • Depression or passivity

  • Extreme aggressiveness, anger or verbal abuse

  • Inappropriate sexual behavior

  • Dramatic change in school performance

  • Chronic truancy

  • Suicidal ideas

  • Substance abuse

    Parental clues

  • Unwilling to provide for child's needs

  • Indifferent to child's condition or safety

  • Unable to explain child's injury

  • Gives improbable explanation for child's injury

  • Cannot describe anything positive about child

  • Constantly and angrily criticizes child

  • States destructive thoughts about hurting child

  • Uses belt or other object to discipline child

  • Discipline of child is impulsive or out-of-control

  • Expects child to serve or fulfill adult's needs

  • Describes child as "evil"

  • Has unrealistic expectations about child's development

    Environmental clues

  • Broken windows

  • Lack of utilities (heat, water, electricity)

  • Faulty electrical fixtures

  • Insects, mice or rats

  • Spoiled food

  • Unsanitary kitchen

  • Garbage or hazards in the yard

  • Yelling or crying heard from outside

    To report child abuse

    Here are local telephone numbers to report child abuse:

  • Contra Costa:

    925-646-1680 (central)

    510-374-3324 (west)

    925-427-8311 (east)

    877-881-1116

  • Alameda County:

    510-259-1800

  • Santa Clara County:

    650-493-1186 (north)

    408-683-0601 (south)

    408-299-2071 (central)

    Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.