Identify abuse

You may be worried about the wellbeing of a child or young person but feel unsure whether the situation is serious enough to report. Signs of neglect or abuse can be hard to categorise. It's normal to feel uncertain. We have some guidance to help you through this.

Some of the signs

Physical signs such as:

  • Unexplained bruises, welts, cuts and abrasions
  • Unexplained fractures or dislocations
  • Burn marks

Other signs:

  • No clear explanation for any of the above
  • Behavioural concerns such as emotional withdrawal, aggression or anxiety
  • Developmental delays, changes or signs
  • The child talking about or subtly mentioning things that may indicate abuse
  • Parents seeming stressed or not coping on the money they have
  • Drug or alcohol problems
  • Parents not having friends or family to help
  • Adults hitting or yelling
  • Mental health problems
  • Children are left home alone or seem to be neglected
  • Children routinely not going to school

Ask yourself these questions

  • Is the child's behaviour a sign of abuse or neglect, or are there other things going on in the family that could affect them?
  • How is the child's behaviour?
  • How is the child's development?
  • Has the child or family hinted at, or said that something is wrong?
  • Are there signs of family violence?
  • Do I sense the family is struggling, or the child is at risk in some way?

We're here to help

We're here to talk through any worries you have. Don't be afraid of discussing a worry you're having about a child. Our social workers are trained to work out what kinds of problems a family might be having, and find the best ways to help them get back on track.

It takes a village...

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Trust your instincts, and don't just hope someone else will speak up. It's everyone's job to keep children safe. And if there are serious problems, they're likely to go on until someone takes action.

Children can't speak up for themselves, and the people involved may be too ashamed, distressed or caught up in the situation to ask for help. You might be the only one that has noticed, so it's important you:

  • talk to the child. Listen to them and let them know you're there
  • provide encouragement and support
  • link them up with others who can offer the support they need
  • talk to someone experienced for ideas, or a different point of view on how to help
  • if the family won't accept your help, let someone in the community know you're concerned.

And remember, if you still think there's a problem, talk to us.

Contact us

Voyce – Whakarongo mai: advocacy service for children in care

If you're a child or young person in care, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai is an independent connection and advocacy service, separate from Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children, and we're here to listen to you, support you, and be on your side. Part of what we also do is organise fun and engaging events for kids with care experience so you can connect with each other.

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Published: March 21, 2017 · Updated: November 11, 2021