Child Abuse

 
6
Safety
Children and Family Services
 
No
No

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What you need to know

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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 DHHS.ChildrenandFamilyServices@nebraska.gov

 

Child Abuse and Neglect Definitions and Indicators

Abuse

Physical Abuse​

​​Definition
  • Non-accidental infliction of injury or an act that poses substantial likelihood of bodily injury. 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. ​
Indicators
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • Bruises or other marks.
  • Arrives early to school and stays late.
  • Parent tells teachers to use harsh physical discipline if child misbehaves.
  • Parent Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's injury, or provides an explanation that is not consistent with the injury.
  • Unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes.
  • Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school
  • Child shrinks at the approach of adults, or is generally afraid of adults.
  • Child is reluctant to be around a particular person or seems frightened.
  • Child Discloses abuse;
  • Parent Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's injury, or provides an explanation that is not consistent with the injury. ​

Unreasonable use of confinement

 
​​Definition
  • Any type of activity the caregiver uses to confine or restrict the child such as tying the child up with rope, duct tape, or chain to keep the child in one place.
Indicators
  • Changes in behavior or school performance.
  • Learning problems or difficulty concentrating.
  • Overly compliant, passive, withdrawn
  • Unexplained bruises;
  • Is reluctant to be around a particular person or seems frightened. ​

Cruel Punishment

​​Definition
  • Any type of discipline that results in injury, cuts, bruising, withholding food, water, required care, or requiring a child to consume nonfood items or inappropriate amounts of food or water, or a parent or caregiver's use of sadistic measures or weapons.
Indicators
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • Bruises or other marks.
  • Arrives early and stays late after school.
  • Parent tells teachers to use harsh physical discipline if child misbehaves.
  • Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school.
  • Child shrinks at the approach of adults, or is generally afraid of adults.
  • Child is reluctant to be around a particular person or seems frightened.
  • Parent Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's injury, or provides an explanation that is not consistent with the injury. ​

Emotional Abuse

​​Definition
  • The parent or caregiver demonstrates a pattern of criticizing, rejecting, insulting, isolating, terrorizing, or humiliating the child, resulting in serious emotional or behavioral issues.

Indicators

  • Overly compliant, passive, withdrawn.
  • Extreme changes in behavior.
  • Signs of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self-harming.
  • Delays in developmental milestones.
  • Parent uses rejecting, insulting or critical statements towards child;
  • Parent uses humiliation or isolation tactics. 

Neglect

Physical Neglect

​​Definition
  • Physical neglect means the failure of the parent/caregiver to provide basic needs, for example food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, and/or a safe and sanitary living environment for the child.
Indicators
  • 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. 
  • Children report parents are rarely home.
  • Child acts mature for their age or provides supervision and care to younger siblings;
  • Family home is physically unsafe which may include exposed wiring, lack or water or utilities, substantial amount of waste such as garbage, trash, human or animal waste. ​

Abandonment

​​Definition
  • Abandonment means a child is without any appropriate caregiver due to the intentional act and decision of the parent not to care for the child. There is a clear demonstration that the parent/caretaker does not intend to resume parental responsibilities for the child.
  • Nebraska's Safe Haven law can be found at NRS 29-121. Although an individual cannot be criminally prosecuted solely based on the act of leaving a child who is 30 days or younger at a licensed hospital, they may have a Juvenile Court Case opened. 

Indicators

  • Parent has left children with someone who cannot meet the children's needs and has not returned.
  • Parent has kicked the child out of the home and refuses to let the child return and has not arranged for an alternative caregiver. 

Educational Neglect

​​Definition
  • The failure of the parent or caregiver to access an appropriate educational program and assure regular attendance for a child age 6 or older, but younger than age 13, unless the parent or caregiver has complied with one of the exceptions listed in Neb. Rev. Stat. § 79-201​
Indicators
  • Child is falling behind in school.
  • Child is frequently late for school or has unexcused absences.​

Domestic Violence

​​Definition
  • Domestic violence as neglect means the establishment of control and fear in a relationship through the use of violence and other forms of abuse and the children have been present or effected by the domestic violence
Indicators
  • Child is physically present in the home when an injury to the adult has occurred.
  • The child has intervened.
  • The child has called for help and/or the child is fearful.
  • Weapons have been used, or items have been used as weapons in the incident;
  • The child demonstrates a pattern of emotional or behavioral response to domestic violence in the home. ​

Substance Use

​​Definition
  • Parent's use of substances is affecting their ability to parent and provide for the needs of their children. Substance use alone does not indicate abuse or neglect
Indicators
  • Lack of caregiver available to meet needs.
  • Child acts mature for their age or provides supervision and care to younger.
  • Lack of hygiene, food, or other basic needs not being met.
  • Violence in the home and may display violence in other settings.
  • Child withdrawn from peers;
  • Injury due to lack of supervision.​


 

Sexual Concerns

Sexual Abuse

​​Definition
  • Sexual abuse means any sexually oriented act, practice, contact, or interaction in which the child is or has been used for the sexual stimulation of a parent, child, vulnerable adult, or another person.
Indicators
  • 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.
  • Goes missing.
  • Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver;
  • Attaches very quickly to strangers or new adults in their environment.​

Sexual Exploitation

​​Definition
  • Includes, but is not limited to, any person causing, allowing, permitting, inflicting, or encouraging a child to engage in voyeurism, exhibitionism, or sexual acts in exchange for something; or in the production, distribution, or acquisition of pornographic photographs, films, or depiction of the child.
Indicators
  • 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.
  • Goes missing. 
  • Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver;
  • Attaches very quickly to strangers or new adults in their environment​.

Human Trafficking

Sex Trafficking

​​Definitions
  • Sex trafficking is any attempt to have someone under 18 perform a commercial sex act, that is, a sex act for money or for anything else of value, like a place to sleep, food, transportation, or even drugs.
Indicators
  • Chronic missing/homeless youth.
  • Inconsistencies when describing and recounting events.
  • Sexually explicit profiles on social networking sites.
  • Demeanor exhibiting fear, anxiety, depression, submissiveness, tenseness, nervousness.
  • Is not enrolled in school or repeated absence from school.
  • Family relationships not clear (may or may not present as formal guardian).
  • Child is fearful of family he/she lives with.
  • Does not have access to their personal identification documents (e.g., ID card, social security card, driver's license);
  • For additional information please see DHHS Human Trafficking Site .

Labor Trafficking   ​​

Definitions

  • Labor trafficking is trying to force a minor to provide labor or services by: physically harming or restraining the victim (or threatening to do so); threatening to have the victim arrested or deported; controlling the victim's access to drugs; exploiting a victim's functional or mental impairment; and claiming the victim cannot leave a job because of a real or imagined debt.
Indicators
  • Chronic missing/homeless youth.
  • Inconsistencies when describing and recounting events.
  • Sexually explicit profiles on social networking sites.
  • Demeanor exhibiting fear, anxiety, depression, submissiveness, tenseness, nervousness.
  • Is not enrolled in school or repeated absence from school.
  • Family relationships not clear (may or may not present as formal guardian).
  • Child is fearful of family he/she lives with
  • Does not have access to their personal identification documents (e.g., ID card, social security card, driver's license);
  • For additional information please see DHHS Human Trafficking Site .

Dependency

​​Definition
  • Dependency occurs when no child maltreatment has been identified however the parent or caregiver is, or will be unable to care for the child through no fault of the parent or caregiver
Indicators
  • Parent has their own physical or mental health needs preventing from properly providing for the child.
  • Child has no caregiver due to death, incarceration, hospitalization, or lack of supports.
  • Child's physical or mental health needs are beyond ability of caregiver or community based services.


 

Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect

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

 

Alleged perpetrators of child abuse and neglect have the right to:

  • Be informed and notified of the allegations 
  • Be informed of the outcome of the assessment
  • Be informed by DHHS regarding what they need to do in order to have an ongoing case closed
  • Learn more about DHHS Children and Family Services Policies and Procedures regarding child abuse and neglect