Child Abuse & Neglect


If you suspect child abuse is happening, please call 1-844-CO-4-KIDS

Child Abuse applies to children under the age of 16 years old.  Child Abuse involves injury or threat of injury to a child’s life or health. It can include physical, sexual, and sometimes emotional/mental abuse. Child Abuse can also include neglect. Child Abuse can cause emotional or physical harm.

According to Colorado law, Child Abuse is a type of crime called Wrongs to Children.

Adults who abuse children are often close to the children. For example, the adult may be a parent, caregiver, or someone in a position of trust (such as a coach or priest).

When a child is abused, different kinds of cases may be opened after a report is made:


A few warning signs that a child may be abused or neglected:

  • The child shows behaviors that seem too young for their age (for example, wetting the bed or thumb sucking)
  • The child has behavior problems (such as defiance, aggression, poor peer relationships)
  • The child has problems at school (such as skipping school)
  • The child has health problems
  • The child has poor hygiene (such as dirty clothes, dental problems)
  • The child has sleep and eating problems
  • The child is often hungry or seems too thin
  • The child is often tired
  • The child has unexplained injuries
  • The child has injuries of a distinctive shape (such as a bruise in the shape of a hand)
  • The child has injuries at different stages of healing
  • The child wears clothes designed to hide injuries
  • The child displays violent themes in play
  • The child has fear or over-compliance with adults
  • The child displays sexual behavior or knowledge that does not make sense given the child’s age
  • The child appears withdrawn, sad, and/or anxious

A few warning signs that a parent or caregiver may be abusive or neglecting a child:

  • The adult is aggressive around the child
  • The adult says the child is a liar, evil, and/or not trustworthy
  • The adult shames or humiliates the child
  • The adult does not pay attention to the child
  • The adult stops the child from getting medical care
  • The adult keeps the child away from friends, school, or other places another adult may notice abuse
  • The adult spends much time away from the child or leaves child at home alone for long periods of time

If you or someone you know needs help on this topic, click here for some Denver-based and national organizations.

To see Colorado statutes on Child Abuse and Wrongs to Children, click here.

More on Child Abuse

To read a little bit more about the different ways child abuse can look, read below. This section is to help people learn how child abuse can happen. This section does not give legal definitions of crimes.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is when someone threatens, bullies, criticizes, or shames a child over and over again. Emotional abuse can cause emotional harm.

Sometimes abusive adults:  

  • Scream or yell at the child a lot
  • Tell the child that he or she is unwanted or unloved
  • Shame or humiliate the child - for example, call the child names, criticize the child, or puts down the child
  • Keep the child from social and positive activities

Physical child abuse

Physical child abuse is when someone touches a child in a way that causes injury or pain. For example, someone might punch, shove, slap, kick, or threaten a child. Physical abuse may cause bruises, cuts, brain damage, broken bones, emotional harm, or even death.

Sexual child abuse

Sexual child abuse is when an adult or an older child commits sexual acts on a child. Sexual abuse almost always occurs by someone whom the child knows. Some examples of sexual abuse include:

  • Any nonconsensual sexual contact
  • The abuser makes the child view sexual materials
  • The abuser forces a child to perform a sexual act
  • Child prostitution
  • The abuser takes pictures of a naked child (also called child pornography and images of child abuse). These types of acts may be charged as crimes when the child involved is under 18 years old.


Neglect is when a parent or caregiver does not provide enough care to support a child’s development. For example, care related to a child’s physical or medical needs.  

Sometimes abusive adults:

  • Physical neglect:
    • Inappropriately leave a child alone at home or unsupervised for their age
    • Do not give the child healthy food or drink
    • Do not give the child enough clothing or hygienic care
    • Expose the child to unsafe environments
  • Emotional neglect:
    • Do not give the child attention, affection or emotional support
    • Expose the child to violence
    • Allow the child to engage in unsafe or illegal activities
    • Keep the child isolated and away other people
  • Medical neglect:
    • Do not get medical help when the child is very injured or sick
    • Do not get care to keep the child healthy. Care to keep a child healthy is called “preventative care”
    • Note: Medical neglect does not include times when a parent may not give a child certain treatments due to culture or religion
  • Educational neglect:
    • Do not make sure the child attends school regularly
    • Stop the child from getting an education

Learn more about the legal process involved in Child Abuse here.