Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Department of Human Services

Signs, Symptoms, and When to Report Abuse

The Dane County Department of Human Services offers an array of help both directly and through partnerships with service agencies for families and children under the age of 18 who experience child abuse and/or neglect. View more information on our Child Protective Services here.


Signs and Symptoms

  • Child Abuse: The physical, sexual, or emotional maltreatment of a child (ages 0 to 18) by a parent, family member, another caregiver, or non-caregiver.
  • Physical Abuse: Involves cuts, broken or fractured bones, burns, internal injuries, or severe and frequent bruising inflicted on a child on purpose (not an accident).
  • Sexual Abuse: Sexual intercourse, contact, or exploitation.
  • Emotional Abuse: Harm to a child’s psychological or intellectual functioning that is exhibited to a severe degree.
  • Child Neglect: The failure of the parent or caregiver to provide necessary care, including supervision, food, clothing, shelter, and medical care—for reasons other than poverty—seriously endangering the physical health of a child.


Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect

If you know that a child has been abused or neglected, or if you suspect that this is the case, you should report your concerns to the Department of Human Services now. 

Please don't hesitate to call: (608) 261-KIDS Monday to Friday between 7:45 AM and 4:30 PM or (608) 255-6067 at all other times.

Below are common questions and concerns with regard to reporting. Please contact us with further questions.

Am I a mandated reporter?

Persons in some professions are required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect, as well as those situations in which they have reason to believe that a child has been threatened with abuse or neglect or that abuse or neglect will occur. These people are called mandated reporters, and each state must list who falls into this category. Persons required to report and who intentionally fail to report may be fined and/or imprisoned. Some of those persons are listed here (according to Wisconsin statutes).

  • Acupuncturists
  • Alcohol and drug abuse counselors
  • All medical and mental health professionals
  • Audiologists
  • Child care workers in any daycare center or child-caring institution
  • Chiropractors
  • Clergy (sexual abuse only)
  • Coroners
  • Daycare providers
  • Dentists
  • Dieticians
  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Marriage and family therapists
  • Mediators under section 767.405
  • Medical examiners
  • Nurses
  • Optometrists
  • Paramedics
  • Physical therapists
  • Physicians
  • Police and law enforcement officers
  • Professional counselors
  • School administrators, teachers, counselors
  • Social or public assistance workers
  • Speech therapists
  • Treatment staff employed by or working under contract with a community board
What will happen when I report child protection concerns?

Child protection reports are taken over the phone by a social worker and entered into our Case Management System. The worker will ask detailed questions about your concerns including the identity and whereabouts of the family. Please be prepared with birth dates and spelling of names if you have them. The more specific you are about the concerns, the more effective our intervention. This conversation may take up to 20 minutes, so please have the time available when you make your call. If we need to call you back, please leave a number you can be reached at, and some times you will be available.

After the report is received it is screened by a supervisor. The supervisor decides whether the report warrants an assessment by a worker. Reports that are “screened out” are saved and considered if subsequent reports are received.

Families open for assessment are interviewed by a social worker. If there are safety concerns for the child or children, the worker, together with the caregivers, will come up with a safety plan. Safety plans can include in-home services, the support of family members or out of home placement for the child if no other plan is possible.

What if I'm not sure I should report?

Please report! Human Services staff will make follow-up decisions. We cannot protect children unless they are brought to our attention.

Will the family know that I reported?

State law protects reporter confidentiality. We will not disclose your name to the individuals whom you report. In rare cases, reporter information is revealed in the context of court proceedings.

Will the child be removed from their family?

All efforts are made to keep children in their family home. If removal is necessary, relatives and family friends are considered before foster care. Placements are not common and if they occur they are often short-term until an in-home safety plan can be put into place.

Will I learn what happened?

The Social Worker will write to you if you are a mandated reporter (as listed above). The letter will provide basic information about the intervention only, however, as state law provides for family confidentiality. The Social Worker will not write to you if you are a non-mandated reporter as state law prohibits this breach of family confidentiality.

Additional Resources

Prevent Child Abuse Wisconsin: Information on recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect, along with data and statistics.

Identification of Child Abuse & Neglect: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families defines some of the signs that may be present in the child or parent that may signal the presence of child abuse or neglect.

Prevent Child Abuse America: Dedicated to making young voices heard and preventing child abuse and neglect throughout the country.