Child Abuse

Children and Family Services

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What you need to know

Mandatory Reporting

Everyone has a responsibility to report child abuse or neglect. State law requires any person who has a reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected to report their concerns to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at:

(800) 652-1999

Your contact with the hotline is confidential and will not be shared with the family. You may be contacted by a Child and Family Services Specialist during the investigation, however, you may request to remain anonymous.

For more information please reach out to DHHS at


Types of Child Abuse and Neglect

Physical Abuse

is non-accidental physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap or other object), burning or otherwise harming a child, that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver or other person who has responsibility for the child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child.

Physical discipline, such as spanking, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child. Non-accidental injury that is caused by someone other than a parent, guardian, relative or other caregiver, such as a stranger, is considered a criminal act that is not addressed by child protective services.

Never Shake a Baby

Shaking a baby can cause permanent brain damage, blindness and even death. Remember, when your baby is crying, take a break, don't shake.


Do not punish with belts, "switches" or cords

These things will hurt your child and may leave marks. If you do choose to spank your child, only do so on their clothed bottom with your open hand. You do not want to injure the child. Never spank a child when you are angry. Instead, try time out or take away toys, TV, video games or computer.




is the failure of a parent, guardian or other caregiver to provide for a child's basic needs. Neglect may be:

  • Physical (failure to provide necessary food or shelter or lack of appropriate supervision)
  • Medical (failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)
  • Educational (failure to educate a child or meet special education needs)
  • Emotional (failure to meet a child's emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care or allowing the child to use alcohol or other drugs)
Cultural values. The standards of care in the community and poverty may contribute to maltreatment, which may mean the family is in need of information or assistance. 
Appropriate supervision. If you must leave your child alone, consider their maturity level. Never leave a child six years old or younger alone. If you leave your children with a baby sitter, make sure that person is safe. Older children left in charge of younger children should know who to call in case of an emergency. 

Domestic Violence as Neglect

If law enforcement is called to a home due to violence between partners and children are present (even if they are believed to be sleeping), a report will be forwarded to Child Protective Services via the Abuse and Neglect Hotline. Children who are exposed to domestic violence are harmed by the experience and suffer consequences ranging from hyper-vigilance to problems with concentration and emotional regulation. These children often grow up to be victims of domestic violence themselves.

Abandonment as Neglect

In general, a child is considered to be abandoned when the parent's identity or whereabouts are unknown, the child has been left alone in circumstances where the child suffers serious harm or the parent has failed to maintain contact with the child or provide reasonable support.

Nebraska's Safe Haven Law

No person shall be prosecuted for any crime based solely upon the act of leaving a child in the custody of an employee on duty at a hospital licensed by the State of Nebraska.  The hospital shall promptly contact appropriate authorities to take custody of the child. The age of a child who a person can drop off at a hospital and not be prosecuted is limited to 30 days or younger.



National Safe Haven Laws

Some States have enacted laws that provide safe places for parents to relinquish newborn infants. The Child Welfare Information Gateway produced a publication as part of its State Statute series that summarizes such State laws.




Substance Abuse as Abuse or Neglect

This may include the following:

  • Prenatal exposure of a child to harm due to the mother's use of an illegal drug or other substance;
  • Manufacture of methamphetamine in the presence of a child;
  • Selling, distributing, or giving illegal drugs or alcohol to a child:


Do not use illegal drugs, misuse prescription drugs or get drunk in the presence of your children. Parents and other caregivers should always be sober when they are with children. Never give or allow anyone else to give your child drugs or alcohol. Keep all alcohol and drugs--including prescription medications--out of reach of your children.

Sexual Abuse

This is defined as “the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children."

Sexual Abuse may include:

  • Fondling a child's genitals
  • Penetration
  • Incest
  • Rape
  • Sodomy,
  • Indecent exposure
  • Exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.

Emotional Abuse

This is a behavior that harms a child's emotional development or sense of self-worth.

Emotional abuse may include:

  • Constant criticism, threats, or rejection
  • Withholding love, support, or guidance

Reporting Abuse & Neglect

School Professionals



  • Unexplained injuries
  • Bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school
  • Changes in behavior or school performance
  • Learning problems or difficulty concentrating
  • Overly compliant, passive, withdrawn
  • Arrives early and stays late
  • Is frequently absent from school or comes to school unprepared, without supplies, lunch or lunch money
  • Begs or steals food or money
  • Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses
  • Sleeping at school
  • Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor
  • Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather 


  • Tells teachers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
  • Demands “perfection" in academic performance
  • Shows little concern for the child
  • Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's injury, or provides an explanation that is not consistent with the injury

Public or Other Professionals



  • Unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes
  • Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school
  • Sudden changes in behavior or school performance
  • Untreated physical or medical problems
  • Learning problems / difficulty concentrating
  • “Watchful," preparing for something bad to happen
  • Little or no adult supervision, often left alone
  • Overly compliant, passive, withdrawn
  • At school or other activities early, stays late, does not want to go home
  • Shrinks at the approach of adults, afraid
  • Is reluctant to be around a particular person or seems frightened
  • Discloses abuse
  • Is frequently absent from school
  • Begs or steals food or money
  • Lacks medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses
  • Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor
  • Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather
  • Abuses alcohol or other drugs
  • States that there is no one at home 
  • Shows extreme behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, very passive or aggressive
  • Acts very mature for their age (ex: parenting other children) or very young (ex:frequently rocking or head-banging)
  • Is delayed in physical or emotional development
  • Has attempted suicide
  • Reports a lack of attachment to the parent
  • Signs of Sexual Abuse
    • Has difficulty walking or sitting
    • Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
    • Reports nightmares or bedwetting
    • Experiences a sudden change in appetite
    • Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
    • Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14
    • Runs away
    • Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver
    • Attaches very quickly to strangers or new adults in their environment


  • Denies there is a problem, blames the child for problems
  • Uses harsh physical discipline with the child and/or tells teachers or others to use harsh physical discipline
  • Sees the child as bad or worthless; describes the child in a negative way 
  • Demands “perfection"
  • Looks to the child for their own care, attention, and satisfaction.
  • Shows little concern for the child
  • Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's injury, or provides an explanation that is not consistent with the injury
  • Has a history of abuse as a child
  • Has a history of abusing animals or pets
  • Appears to be indifferent to the child
  • Seems apathetic or depressed
  • Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner
  • Is abusing alcohol or other drugs
  • Does not protect the child 
  • Is secretive and isolated
  • Is jealous or controlling with family members
  • Constantly blames, belittles, or berates the child
  • Is unconcerned about the child and refuses to consider offers of help for the child's problems
  • Overtly rejects the child

Preparing to Report

What to Report

​​Family Information

  • Provide as much information as you can about the alleged victim(s)—the child(ren)—and the people in their household.
  • Give the Hotline Worker the address, if you can.
  • It helps if you can provide first and last names of the child(ren), their ages (or birthdates) and the school(s) they attend, if you know.
  • It helps if you can name anyone else who lives in the home with the child(ren)—parent(s), step-parent(s), grandparent(s), aunts or uncles or other adults--and provide their age(s) and phone number(s).
  • If you know them, provide the full name(s) and address(es) of any non-custodial parent(s).

The concerns you have

  • Describe what is going on and what you are concerned about.
  • Describe how the children are unsafe.
  • Describe the specific incident(s) you are concerned about, with as much detail as possible:
    • Where it happened.
    • When it happened.
    • Who was there.
  • Describe any signs of physical abuse such as marks or bruises.
  • Describe any illegal drug use or misuse of prescription drugs and how it makes the child(ren) unsafe.
  • If there is domestic violence occurring between the adults, describe if there has been an injury as a result of the domestic violence.
  • Describe how the children have been effected.


What Happens When My Family Is Reported

Who Reported Me?

  • Nebraska State law requires that any person who believes a child has been or is being abused or neglected make a report. The identity of the person who made the report is confidential and cannot be released. State law also requires that all reports that meet the definition of abuse and neglect are assessed.
  • Some professionals are required by their job to report child abuse or neglect and may lose their professional licensure or even go to jail if they don't report. 
  • If you are contacted by a worker because there is a report regarding your child(ren), the worker cannot tell you who made the call, even if he or she knows the Reporter's identity. It is best to accept that this information is confidential.

What Happens Next?

  • A DHHS worker and/or law enforcement will visit with you.  The worker will conduct a Safety Assessment to determine if the child is safe. If the child is safe, the worker may encourage you to access community resources, if appropriate, to help you prevent future problems.
  • In cases where the child is determined to be unsafe, the worker will work with you to create a Safety Plan. The worker will make all attempts to create a plan that keeps your child(ren) in your home. If it is not possible for them to stay at home, the worker may talk to you about a safe place where the child(ren) can stay until they can be safe at home.
  • In some cases, a Safety Plan will not keep the child(ren) safe at home and they may need to be removed. If the child(ren) need to be removed, law enforcement or a court order is needed to remove the child(ren) from your home. The worker will ask you for the name(s) and contact information of the non-custodial parent, other relatives or friends of the family who might be able to care for the child(ren) temporarily.
  • The worker will also gather information for a Risk Assessment.
  • If a Court Case is opened, you will have to attend the hearings and follow what the court says. You may have a lawyer to represent you. Your children will also have a lawyer called a Guardian ad Litem.  
  • You and the worker can talk about what seems to cause problems in your home.  You and your worker will set up a plan to make the needed changes. You are encouraged to talk about any problems in your family. Your worker knows of many of programs and services that may be useful. The workers are there to help your family improve your situation so that the child(ren) may be returned home as quickly as possible.

The Assessments

Safety Assessment- the worker needs to determine whether the children are SAFE in the family home. The worker will consider several things to determine if the household is safe:

  1. Parents must be responsible for the physical care and wellbeing of their children; this includes:
    1. Being willing and able to provide care
    2. Providing appropriate living conditions
    3. Meeting the child's needs for supervision, food, clothing
    4. Accessing medical and/or mental health care
  2. Discipline must be reasonable and cannot cause bodily injury.
  3. Children cannot be exposed to Domestic Violence as they will be at risk of physical injury and emotional/psychological problems
  4. Parents must protect their children from sexual abuse and not engage in sexual activity with their children.
  5. If the child's behaviors place him or her in harm's way, the parent must respond appropriately to protect them and others.

Risk Assessment- the worker needs to determine the level of risk there is to the family and will look at the following information:

  1. Stressors on the family, such as the number and ages of the children and whether any of the children have special needs or challenging behaviors
  2. Parenting styles and discipline, attitudes toward the children.
  3. Parenting and providing for the basic and special needs of the children
  4. Parent/caregiver history, including childhood abuse, drug and alcohol use, mental health and domestic violence
  5. Current housing situation


Parents suspected of abuse or neglect have the right to:

  • a complete understanding of specific allegations regarding the care of their children;
  • know the legal basis for the intervention;
  • know the realities and events which may result from the complaint and investigation;
  • know the expectations that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has of them and what they can expect from DHHS; and
  • be represented by an attorney.