Signs of Abuse: The different types of child abuse

Signs of Abuse: The different types of child abuse

Signs of Child Abuse in Foster Children

There are currently over 5,000 children in the foster care system in Virginia. Many of these children are the victims of child abuse. That is why foster parents and family members need to understand and know the signs of abuse and what they can do to help the children in their care.

But what are the signs and symptoms of child abuse? What are the different types of abuse? Foster parents can help protect the children in their care by educating themselves on this subject.


Physical abuse refers to intentional physical harm to another person. It does not refer to punishments such as spanking if it is reasonable. Still, if it causes bodily injury to the child, it is abuse.

Physical abuse includes burning, beating, throwing, or choking the victim.

Some children who are victims of physical abuse have a record of frequent hospital visits with severe injuries. Children in these cases often don't report how their injuries happened or say it was an accident.

Professionals like teachers, social workers, and medical doctors may notice frequent minor injuries such as cuts or bruises on a victim. Some victims may also attempt to hide these injuries from others by wearing heavy clothing, even when it's hot outside.


Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse doesn't cause bodily harm. Instead, it causes emotional and psychological harm. It damages a child's emotional development and sense of self-worth.

Emotional abuse includes constant criticism, threats, rejection, and withholding of love or guidance. These acts prevent children from learning proper emotional regulation and lower their sense of self-worth. The child is often told that their abuse happens because of a failure on the child's part, such as bad grades.


Sexual abuse is sexual maltreatment of another person, including incest, rape, molestation, indecent exposure, and human trafficking. Human trafficking is the enslavement of another person for sexual favors.

Unfortunately, those in or who have been in foster care are at a much higher risk of becoming victims of human trafficking.

Some signs of sexual abuse include the child having a sudden change in their appetite, clothing, or hygiene.

Other common signs of sexual abuse may be regression to younger child-like behavior such as wetting the bed, more extensive vocabulary about sexual parts of the body and sexual acts, sexual activities with other children, and mimicking sexual behavior with stuffed toys.

Another vital sign of sexual abuse is if the child has more sexual knowledge than their peers. Pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are also indicators of child sexual abuse.


Child neglect is a form of abuse that can cause physical and psychological issues in children. It is the failure of a caretaker to provide for a child's most basic needs physically, emotionally, medically, or even educationally.

Physical neglect refers to the materials the child needs to survive. They are underfed, under-clothed, and may not have adequate shelter.

Medical neglect is when a caretaker does not provide proper medical care and attention to the child. For example, if the child requires prescription medication, a negligent caretaker would not give this to them.

Educational neglect occurs when a caretaker doesn't correctly attend to the child's education. Children with learning disabilities are often victims of this because of the extra attention they need. For example, they might not enroll them in school or provide homeschooling.

Finally, emotional neglect is when the child's emotional needs are unmet. This includes failing to get counseling for children in crisis and allowing them to consume drugs and alcohol.

Warning Signs of Abuse

There are many different signs that a child's safety is at risk.

Victims might become hypervigilant and act as if they expect something wrong to happen after minor mistakes. They may disclose that they don't want to go home from school, are fearful of adults, and show signs of mental health concerns, depression, and anxiety.

They may show emotional extremes (extremely demanding or compliant; extremely passive or aggressive). Usually, they'll show delays in emotional and sometimes physical development, warning signs of emotional abuse.

These children may have trouble concentrating in class, and their grades may start to slip.

Many of these issues may persist after the child is away from the abuser and in a foster care program. Try to be patient and kind with them and show them that you have no intentions of harming them.

Concerned adults should beware of signs of depression or suicidal ideation and report any signs of child abuse and neglect to your local Child Protective Services (CPS).

Help A Child In Need

Foster parents need to understand the situation of the foster child in their care. This includes those who have experienced child abuse. These children may be scared and confused, and they may act out in unexpected ways.

A Foster Parent needs the skills to help a child with specific trauma needs. The Child Placing Agency's responsibility is to allow you to acquire these skills. Your Child Placing Agency will give you training before any child is placed with you in your loving home.

Foster parents in the United States can offer children the chance to have a safe and loving home. The Commonwealth of Virginia needs more good people like you to consider fostering and make the call to us.

Contact us today to learn more and start your fostering journey.

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