Child protection: frequently asked questions

What is child abuse?

Children can be abused in different ways. They can be physically injured, for example by punching, hitting, slapping, biting, kicking, being burned or cut. They can also be abused sexually, which means that they have experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour or language. Emotional abuse, where a child is constantly criticised, ignored or humiliated, also causes harm. Neglect is another form of abuse, where a child is not properly fed, clothed or sheltered or kept clean.

What signs might indicate that a child is being abused?

Children who have been abused rarely tell, but there are signs which may make you worry that a child has been abused. The child may have unexplained bruising, or bruising in an unusual place. Not all abuse leaves signs of physical injury. The child may seem afraid, quiet or withdrawn, be afraid to go home, or seem hungry, tired or unkempt. You may be concerned if a child is left alone or unsupervised, has too much responsibility for their age, is acting in a sexually inappropriate way or is misusing drugs or alcohol. You may also see behaviour in an adult which makes you worry about any children they care for. For example, an adult may be acting violently or sexually towards a child, misusing drugs or alcohol while caring for a child or be verbally abusive towards a child. You should report your concerns. You do not have to give your name.

Who should I contact if I am concerned that a child is being abused or is at risk of abuse?

If you have concerns about a child in Aberdeen please contact:

  • 01224 306877 (Joint Child Protection Team)
  • 0800 731 5520 (Emergency Out of Hours)
  • 101 (Police Scotland)

If you are worried about a child, you can also speak to a health visitor, teacher, nursery worker, family doctor, social worker, police officer or children's reporter.

I am being abused or neglected. Who can help me?

You could speak to a health visitor, school nurse, teacher, nursery worker, family doctor, social worker, police officer, children's reporter or any adult you feel you can trust. You can speak to a social worker on 01224 306877 or the police on 101. If you prefer, you can call Childline free on 0800 1111 at any time, to talk about any problem.

What do I do if a child tells me they are being abused?

If a young person tells you they are being abused:

  • Stay calm and listen to them.
  • Never promise to keep it a secret.
  • Tell them you must let someone else know.
  • Remind them that they are not to blame and are doing the right thing.
  • Report it, but leave any investigation to child protection agencies.

What will happen to the child and their family if I report a concern?

Your concern will be treated seriously and acted upon. We will make sure the child is safe. We may speak to the child and family to help assess the situation. We will check whether the child is known to us and what information is held. Once we have finished our enquiries there are a range of things which might happen. We may decide that no action is needed. We may offer the family support, or put them in touch with other agencies which can provide them with services. In some cases it may be necessary to take legal action to protect the child.

If I report a concern about a child, do I have to give my name?

We will treat all the information you give us with care. We will not share any information, including your name, unless the child's safety or wellbeing requires it. If you do not give your name, enquiries can still be made into the child's care and welfare. However, withholding your name may make it more difficult for those looking into these concerns as there may be further information you could give.

Will you let me know what has happened after I report concerns about a child?

You will be advised of the process in the case of suspected child abuse, but the outcome of an investigation will remain confidential.

If you are worried about a child's safety, please contact us.

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