Care Certificate

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Other types of child abuse

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Recognising Various Forms of Child Abuse: Signs, Symptoms and Indicators

Child abuse refers to any act that causes or potentially causes significant emotional or physical harm to a child. While various forms of abuse exist, it's essential to remember that signs, symptoms, and behaviours do not always definitively indicate child abuse, but they can give reason for concern.


Neglect involves the failure to meet a child's basic needs, such as sufficient food, medical care, educational access, appropriate clothing, decent housing, hygiene standards, or proper parenting. Neglect can also occur when a child becomes a carer for a family member. Common signs may include constant hunger, poor personal hygiene, developmental delays, consistent fatigue, and appearing unwell or underweight.


Radicalisation is the process of indoctrinating children and young people with extreme views, often related to political, social, or religious beliefs, sometimes inciting violence. Indicators could include behavioural changes, altered communication style, new friendship circles, use of extremist jargon, or exposure to extremist literature or messages.

Child Trafficking

Child trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, or receipt of a child through coercion, deception, or intimidation for exploitative purposes. Signs could include the constant presence of a controlling adult who speaks for the child, a withdrawn or compliant demeanour, poor hygiene, or limited English language skills.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) involves the non-medical alteration or removal of a girl’s genitalia, typically before the age of 8. Some communities justify FGM with religious, social, or cultural beliefs, but it is a form of abuse. Signs can range from severe pain, chronic infections, mental health issues, reproductive system damage, to infertility. It's important to be aware of the risk of girls being taken abroad for FGM, often under the pretext of extended holidays.

Behavioural Changes

Most forms of abuse will likely lead to changes in the child's behaviour. This could involve a child becoming withdrawn, shy, jumpy, or on the other hand, boisterous, aggressive, attention-seeking, or eager to please. Depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders, and regression to younger behaviours are other potential indicators.

Frequent School Absences or Clinic Visits

Concerns may arise if a child consistently misses school or frequently visits different Accident & Emergency departments or drop-in clinics. This could be a tactic used by the abuser to hide the frequency of the child's need for medical attention. Remember that not all children will exhibit the same symptoms, and often, more than one type of abuse may be occurring, such as physical and emotional abuse.

Online Forms of Abuse

In today's digital age, online forms of abuse are also crucial to consider. These can involve cyberbullying, online exploitation, and exposure to inappropriate content, which may present signs such as withdrawal, mood changes, secretive online activities, and sudden relationships with online friends or older individuals.