Child abuse: recognise and report

Social isolation due to COVID19 makes it harder for authorities to identify child abuse cases. That is why it’s important for essential workers with potential access to family homes to be able to recognise signs of abuse and know where to report their concerns.

If you have concerns, take action and report your concerns to Tusla. We all have a role to play in protecting children.

Types of Abuse:

Neglect Lack of care or supervision Child deprived of food, clothing, hygiene, safety, mental stimulation, etc.

Physical Child is deliberately physically hurt or is at risk of being physically hurt e.g.: Shaking child, using excessive force

Emotional Child’s need for affection, approval, security are not met e.g. excessive punishment, exposure to domestic violence

Sexual Child is used for someone else’s sexual gratification/arousal

Possible signs of abuse


  • Child says no one is at home to provide care Is being cared for by an inappropriate adult
  • Is often dirty/has severe body odour
  • Lacks enough/appropriate clothing for weather
  • Lacks medical or dental care
  • Lacks enough food/water
  • Begs or steals food/money
  • Abuses alcohol/drugs


  • Child has unexplained injuries (burns, bites, bruises, black eyes, broken bones)
  • Reports injury by parent/caregiver
  • Is scared of parents/caregivers
  • Shrinks when approached by adults
  • Is scared/anxious, depressed, withdrawn, aggressive
  • Abuses animals/pets


  • Child shows extreme behaviours (is too passive/aggressive or too submissive/demanding)
  • Acts too old or too young for their age (e.g. is parenting other children or often rocking/banging head)
  • Expresses depressive/suicidal thoughts


  • Child has difficulty walking/sitting
  • Has bleeding, bruising, swelling around private parts
  • Attaches very quickly to strangers/new adults
  • Shows unusual, sophisticated sexual knowledge or behaviour
  • Reports nightmares/bedwetting
  • Observes/shares sexual images online
  • Parent/caregiver observes/shares sexual images online in presence of children

WHEN to report:

You should report abuse when:

  • You witness an incident/sign (outlined above) consistent with abuse
  • A child says or indicates in some other way that they’ve been abused
  • An adult or child admits that they’ve committed abuse
  • Another person shares that they’ve witnessed or know about a child being abused

HOW to report:

  • You can report your concerns in person, by phone, or by email to the local Tusla Children and Family Services centre in the area where the child lives.
  • You can choose to keep your report anonymous.
  • You should contact Tusla even if you’re unsure about reporting; they will talk to you and decide what to do.
  • If a child is in immediate danger, contact the Gardaí at 112/999 or

You are legally protected

The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 protects you when reporting suspected child abuse to Tusla or an Garda Síochána IF you believe your report is true and your report is not malicious.

If you have concerns and want to discuss them with a Tusla Social Worker click the link for contact details in Donegal

You can phone 074 9123672 to speak to a Duty Social Worker here in County Donegal

Here is the link to a poster with all the information provided above

Tusla Information Leaflet (FINAL) (1)

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        Short videos on the Importance of Play have recently launched which was a collaboration between North Central CFSN and Lifestart Services.   Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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