Child Abuse


Call 877-237-0004 or visit the Tennessee Department of Children's Services websiteto report abuse or neglect.

En español: Cómo Reportar el Abuso Infantil: Lo Que Tiene Que Saber Para Reportar el Abuso o Maltrato de Niños


The Child Protective Services division attempts to protect children whose lives or health could be seriously hurt because of abuse or neglect. We also make every attempt to preserve families.

What is child abuse?

According TN Law (T.C.A. § 37-1-102), “Abuse” exists when a person under the age of eighteen (18) is suffering from, has sustained, or may be in immediate danger of suffering from or sustaining a wound, injury, disability or physical or mental condition caused by brutality, neglect or other actions or inactions of a parent, relative, guardian or caretaker. Abuse can be physical, verbal, emotional or sexual.

Physical Abuse means any time a parent or caretaker hurts or injures a child on purpose. It also includes a parent or caretaker who fails to protect a child from a person who is hurting them. Physical abuse can seriously injure or even kill a child.

Physical Neglect means putting a child at serious risk of injury or illness by not adequately watching out for their safety, health and survival. Examples include:
• Abandonment
• Lack of supervision 
• Life-endangering physical hygiene
• Lack of adequate nutrition, so the child doesn’t grow normally
• Lack of shelter 
• Ignoring medical or dental needs, putting the child’s health in danger
• Not meeting a child’s basic clothing needs

In its most severe form, physical neglect may result in a child’s serious harm or death.

Sexual Abuse means touching or penetrating a child's intimate parts, oral sex with a child, indecent exposure or any other sexual act performed in a child's presence for sexual pleasure. It also includes using a child for prostitution and/or making child pornography. A parent or caretaker who fails to try to protect a child or stop sexual abuse by another person is also involved in child sexual abuse.

Emotional Abuse includes verbal assaults (insults and/or yelling), ignoring a child and constant fighting in the family. If a child is shamed and humiliated enough, they will begin to live up to the poor image communicated by the abusing parent or caretaker.

Child abuse can happen anywhere—in poor, middle-class or well-to-do homes, in rural areas or urban ones.

Who should report abuse?
According to Tennessee law, anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect (including doctors, mental health professionals, childcare providers, dentists, family members and friends) must report suspected cases. Failure to report child abuse or neglect is a violation of the law. If you believe a child has been abused or neglected, call 877-237-0004 to report it.

Possible Signs a Child Has Been Abused or Neglected:
• The child has repeated injuries that are not properly treated or adequately explained.
• The child begins acting in unusual ways; may be disruptive and aggressive, or passive and withdrawn.
• The child is forced to assume the role of a parent toward their brothers and sisters, or even toward their own parents.
• The child may have disturbed sleep (nightmares, bed-wetting, fear of sleeping alone, needing night-light).
• The child loses their appetite, overeats or may report being hungry.
• There is a sudden drop in school grades or participation in activities.
• The child may act in stylized ways, such as sexual behavior that is not normal for their age group.
• The child may talk about abusive or neglectful acts.

The above signs indicate that something is wrong but do not necessarily mean the child is being abused. However, if you notice these signs early, you may be able to prevent abuse or neglect.

Parents/caretakers who abuse or neglect their children may show some common characteristics:
• Possible drug/alcohol history
• Disorganized home life
• May seem to be isolated from the community and have no close friends
• May offer conflicting reasons or no explanation when asked about a child's injury
• May seem unwilling or unable to provide for a child's basic needs
• May not have age-appropriate expectations of their children
• May use harsh discipline that is not appropriate for child's age or behavior
• May have been abused or neglected as a child

Parents who abuse their children need help, but few are able to admit the problem and seek assistance.

Don’t take a chance with a child’s life. Call 877-237-0004 if you suspect a child has been abused or neglected.