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  • Is scared/anxious, depressed, withdrawn, aggressive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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