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Child Abuse, What is it?

Mistreatment of a child by a parent, guardian or other adult responsible for his or her welfare, e.g. physical violence, neglect, sexual assault, or emotional cruelty 

Recognizing the warning signs of child abuse

Warning signs of emotional abuse in children

  • excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong
  • shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive)
  • doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver
  • acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile(rocking, thumb-sucking, tantruming)

Warning signs of physical abuse in children

  • frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts
  • is always watchful and “on alert”, as if waiting for something bad to happen
  • injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt
  • shies away from, touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home
  • wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days

Warning signs of neglect of children

  • clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather
  • hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor)
  • untreated illnesses and physical injuries
  • is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments
  • is frequently late or missing from school

Warning signs of sexual abuse in children

  • trouble walking or sitting
  • displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts in appropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior
  • makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason
  • doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities
  • an STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14
  • runs away from home


Reporting child abuse and neglect call 1-855-552-5437 

If you suspect a child is being abused, it’s critical to get them the help he or she needs. Reporting child abuse seems so official. Many people are reluctant to get in involved in other families’ lives. 

Understanding some of the myths behind reporting may help put your mind at ease if you need to report child abuse:

  • I don’t want to interfere in someone else’s family. The effects of child abuse are lifelong, affecting future relationships, self-esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.
  • What if I break up someone’s home? The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. A child abuse report does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home. Unless the child is clearly in danger. Support such as parenting classes, anger management or to her resources may be offered first to parents if safe for the child.
  • They will know it was me who called. Reporting is anonymous. In most states, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.
  • It won’t make a difference what I have to say. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.