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Responding to a child about abuse or neglect

The information on this page is for mandated notifiers.

If you are a concerned member of the public, see the child abuse report line page on the sa.gov.au website for information about making a report.

Always call 000 if it is an emergency

When hearing a child reveal abuse or neglect, the most important thing is to make sure the child feels supported and safe.

The guidance in responding to children and young people (Word 4MB) document outlines in more detail how education and care staff can respond effectively to children.

The lists below provide a broad overview.

After a child has told you about abuse or neglect

You can show your care and concern by:

  • remembering the child may be experiencing a crisis
  • listening carefully
  • controlling your own expressions of panic or shock
  • taking what the child says seriously
  • using the child’s own vocabulary
  • telling the child that this has happened to other children and that some adults do wrong things
  • reassuring the child that they have done the right thing by telling you
  • telling the child you will do your best to support them but do not make promises you may not be able to keep
  • explaining to the child that you need to tell someone who can help them.

Clarifying the situation

Open questions

You may need to ask more questions to clarify the situation.

Open questions are the best way to gain more information from children. Examples of open questions are:

  • How did it happen?
  • What happened?
  • Who was there?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • How often does it happen?
  • How does the other person react?

Leading questions

Leading questions should not be asked as children often get confused. Examples of leading questions are:

  • Did mum or dad hit you?
  • Did mum or dad leave you by yourself again?
  • I bet that made you cry?


Child Abuse Report Line (CARL)

Telephone: 13 14 78