Be Aware of the Signs

Children may not always feel comfortable or know how to ask for help if they are being abused. So, it’s important to learn about the different types of child abuse and what signs to look for to help a child in need. Keep in mind, just because you notice a sign in a child, it does not always mean that child is being abused. Listed below are some examples.

HSA - San Joaquin County Children's Services

Baby crawling on floor

Signs and Behaviors of Child Abuse

Physical Abuse

When a child receives a physical injury that is not an accident.

  • Child has unexplained bruises, wounds, broken bones, burns, or other suspicious injuries
  • Child has injuries and tells someone they were caused by an adult/caregiver
  • Child tells you they are being physically hurt by an adult/caregiver
  • Child is noticeably in pain, has trouble walking, sitting, or moving and you believe their injuries were caused by a form of abuse
  • Child has injuries that do not match the explanation given by the child or parent
  • Adult shakes or throws a child

Sexual Abuse

When a child is pressured or is forced to do anything sexual; the physical act of sex and exposing a child to other sexual activities.

  • Child talks a lot about, acts out, or knowledge of sexual topics and behaviors, that is not typical for the child’s age
  • Child complains of pain in genital areas and says the pain was caused by a parent, caretaker, or adult
  • Child is involved in sex trafficking, or is forced to have sex in order to get money, goods, or a place to live
  • Child is being forced to be a part of or look at pornographic videos or photos

Emotional Abuse

When a parent, caregiver, or adult acts in ways that damage a child’s sense of self worth.

  • Child is manipulated, threatened, called names, or talked down to
  • Child self-harms (cuts on arms, etc), threatens, or attempts suicide, as a result of the adult’s actions
  • Child is violent, destroys objects, or injures pets
  • Child is in the path of violence or fighting between parents or caregivers


When a child’s parent or caretaker does not provide for their basic needs. Examples of basic needs are housing, food, clothing, and access to medical care. However, homelessness and/or poverty alone are not reasons for CPS involvement. 

  • Child has poor hygiene or is not clothed for the right weather, and it affects their daily life
  • Child is not eating enough, and their health is at risk
  • Child does not receive the right medical care to treat a life-threatening medical condition
  • The cleanliness of the child’s residence is having an impact on the health of the child
  • Child is unsupervised for a time frame that impacts their health and safety
  • Child has no adult who is legally responsible for supervision or care
  • Child is given alcohol or drugs by their parent, caregiver, or adult
  • Child is not attending school on a regular basis and there is no medical reason for the absences

What to Do If You Feel Concerned

Phone Call Icon

If a child is in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.

If you believe that a child is being abused or neglected call the CPS Hotline at (209) 468-1333.

If you believe that a child is being abused or neglected by their mother, father, caretaker or a member of their household call the CPS Hotline at (209) 468-1333. Be prepared to give the following information:

  • Name of the child being abused
  • Age of the child
  • Address where the child can be located
  • Contact information for the child’s parents or caregivers, if known
  • Types of abuse or neglect suspected
  • Reason for making the report, including specific signs of abuse and whether it is a part of an ongoing pattern
  • Name and age of other children in the home, if known
  • Name of the person hurting the child, if known
  • If the child is in immediate danger

If you think a child is being abused or neglected by someone other than their parent, caretaker or household member, please call your local non-emergency law enforcement agency to make a report.

Sheriff Office

What Happens Next?

  • Social workers will take the information you have given them and figure out if CPS will directly respond or not. Certain requirements must be met for Children’s Services to take action with the child’s safety, wellbeing, and best interest always our top priority.
  • CPS may respond to your call:
    • Within 24 hours if the child is thought to be in immediate danger
    • Within 10-days if there is no immediate danger to the child
    • Provide the family with a referral to a community organization that can provide specific support to the family
  • Due to confidentiality laws in California, unless you are a mandated reporter in an official capacity (i.e. teacher, police officer, etc), you will not be updated by CPS about the results of the investigation.
  • If a child is taken from the parent/caregiver due to abuse or neglect, CPS will look for relatives or family friends to consider as a safe place for the child to live. For family members interested in learning more about the process and requirements of being a foster family, please visit  Alliance for Children’s Rights and contact San Joaquin County Children’s Services to start the process.

Learn More About How We’re
Strengthening Families

  • San Joaquin County offers many programs and resources to help make families stronger, safe, happy and healthy.
  • 2-1-1 San Joaquin provides 24/7 information and referral services. The staff provide individuals with community resources to meet health and human service’s needs. Phone: 800-436-9997, 2-1-1 (24/7 Toll Free) or 898211 (text your zip code). You can visit website at

Help a Child in Need

Are you interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent in San Joaquin County? Learn more about how you can become a resource parent.

Learn More