Everyone Can Be an Advocate: Learn How to Recognize the Warning Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect

Earlier this month, a waitress in Florida detected signs of child abuse while serving a family dinner on New Year’s Day. After noticing that the parents denied their 11-year-old son food at the restaurant, Flavaine Carvalho saw bruises and scratches on the boy’s body. When Carvalho asked the parents about the boy’s meal, they told her he would eat at home. Carvalho quietly watched the family eat. This situation seemed strange—she felt it in her gut.

Carvalho inconspicuously held up handwritten signs that were not visible to the boy’s parents. The signs asked the boy if he needed help. At first, he said no, but then responded okay. Immediately, Carvalho called 911 and reported what she was seeing. She told the police the boy seemed quiet, sad, and despondent and that he needed help. Police arrived at the restaurant and initially arrested the boy’s stepfather.

As the police conducted their investigation, the boy recounted the years of abuse and neglect he was forced to endure. This subsequently led to the police arresting the boy’s mother and the investigation continues. Carvalho’s act of heroism went viral. From coast to coast, the media has been running news stories on this.

Carvalho’s quick thinking demonstrates the importance of recognizing the warning signs of child abuse and neglect. If something doesn’t seem right or feel right, most likely its not. We believe that everyone can be like Carvalho if they are informed, and that’s why our dedicated team is constantly trying to educate both individuals who work with child and communities about the warning signs. 

Take a look at some of the warning signs of child abuse and neglect, so you can be prepared should you ever encounter a situation like Carvalho.

Indicators of Physical Abuse to a Child: 

  • Unexplained bruises, burns, welts, human bite marks, bald spots, or burns. 
  • Marks on many surfaces of the body 
  • Withdrawal or aggression – behavioral extremes  
  • Does not want to talk about home life. 

Indicators of Neglect or Psychological Abuse to a Child: 

  • Unattended medical needs  
  • Persistent hunger, poor hygiene, or inappropriate dress  
  • Regularly displays fatigue or listlessness. 

Indicators of Neglect or Psychological Abuse from a Parent: 

  • Disinterest in or rejection of child 
  • Failing to meet child’s physical/emotional needs. 
  • Embarrassing children in public or making child feel ashamed or guilty.  

Because Carvalho saw something and said something, the boy and his 4-year-old sibling have been removed from an abusive home and are with the Florida Department of Children and Families. Reporting anything that causes harm or high likelihood of harm to a child LITERALLY saves lives.

For more information on recognizing the signs of child abuse or neglect, including indicators of sexual abuse and sex and labor trafficking, please visit website and read through our Recognizing Abuse & Neglect page

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