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Tennessee's Joint Task Force on Children's Justice and
Child Sexual Abuse Resources

National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-Child
Tennessee Child Abuse Hotline : 1-877-237-0004

Website Resources:

TDHS Child Abuse Resource screenshot
Tennessee Department of Children Services Child Abuse Training (module only)
Tennessee Department of Children Services Child Abuse Training (module with certificate)

Note: In order to obtain complete the training and receive a certificate, you will be asked to register in the University of Tennessee College of Social Work Learning Management System.

Social Workers as Witnesses at Court — A professional curriculum for child welfare and social service professionals to use when testifying in court (2013)

Social Workers as Witnesses in Court

Curriculum (Slides with Presenter Notes)
Curriculum (Handout)
Curriculum (Slides Handout)

This curriculum may be modified and/or used by permission, as long as participants are not charged a fee and there is no financial gain to any individual or organization.  For permission to use the curriculum, and for the PowerPoint file and Word document files, please contact Rae Anne Seay, Attorney, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, at 931-455-7000, or at

Joint Task Force focuses on Child Sex Abuse Protection (2009)
Help us protect Tennessee's children from child abuse by viewing this important message from former Governor Phil Bredesen and his wife Andrea Conte (video opens in a new window).

Protect Children in Tennessee

Tennessee Chapter of Children's Advocacy Centers (CAC)
Tennessee Department of Children Services (TDCS)
Tennessee General Assembly
Child Help USA
Medline Plus Child Abuse

pdf View the Reporting Tennessee Child Abuse and Neglect poster
pdf Considerations in the Reunification of Sexually Abusive Youth
pdf Child Abuse Reporting Steps for Teachers
ppt Children in Court: Taking Testimony From Children
pdf Practice Guidelines and Resources for Erin's Law
pdf CPIT Best Practice Manual
ppt CPIT Manual PowerPoint

Possible Indicators of Child Abuse
This list is provided as a set of guidelines only and is not intended to be a comprehensive or exhaustive source. To download a printable version of this information please click here:
Reporting Tennessee Child Abuse and Neglect poster (.pdf 324 KB)

Potential Sexual Abuse Indicators of Child Abuse

Physical symptoms

  • Soreness or bruising, pain or itching in genital or anal areas
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Bedwetting
  • Unexplained loss of appetite
  • Verbal descriptions of sexual abuse

Behavioral symptoms

  • Having knowledge of or asking an unusual amount of questions about human sexuality
  • Excessive masturbation
  • Anger, rage, depression, anxiety
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Compulsive drawing or viewing sexually explicit pictures
  • Obsession with pornography
  • Becoming isolated or withdrawn
  • Repeated runaway or suicide attempts
  • Promiscuous behavior
  • Self destructive behavior/self injury, risky or delinquent behavior
  • Substance abuse

Potential Emotional Abuse Indicators of Childe Abuse

  • Anxiety, depression, or hostility
  • Low self esteem
  • Developmental delays
  • Ongoing self depreciation
  • Failure to thrive

Potential Physical Abuse Indicators of Child Abuse

Physical symptoms

  • Unexplained fractures or injuries
  • Multiple injuries in various body locations
  • Previous injuries in various healing stages
  • Patterned injuries consistent with objects of abuse (cigar/cigarettes, hands, ropes)
  • Burns on extremities, buttocks or genitals
  • Frightened of or shrinks at approach of adult caretaker
  • Verbal descriptions of physical abuse

Behavioral symptoms

  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Emotional turmoil (depressed, suicidal)
  • Self isolation, undue aggression or constant anger
  • Developmental delays
  • Fear of going home or repeated runaway attempts
  • Self-destructive tendencies
  • Cruel behaviors
  • Depression, anxiety

Potential Neglect Indicators

  • Constant hunger or tiredness
  • Neglected personal hygiene/poor state of dress
  • Untreated medical issues
  • Signs of malnutrition, emaciation
  • Consistent lack of supervision
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Abandonment
This list is provided as a set of guidelines only and is not intended to be a comprehensive or exhaustive source. Protect Our Children - To Report Child Abuse In Tennessee call 1-877-237-0004.

Child Abuse Reporting Steps for Teachers

When should you suspect Child abuse or neglect?
Some examples include:

  • A child has repeated unexplained injuries.
  • It is apparent that the child's basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter) are not regularly met.
  • Child exhibits sexual behavior that is not age appropriate.
  • Child experiences a sudden drop in grades or participation in activities.
  • The child behaves erratically, ranging from aggressive and disruptive to passive.
These signs could indicate child abuse or neglect or could be signs of other problems.

How do I know if it is appropriate for me to make a report?
Tennessee law, TCA 37-1-403(a)(1), states that any person who has knowledge of suspected abuse should make a report. You are not required to have proof of child abuse/neglect in order to report your concerns.

How do I report?
You can call the Department of Children's Services toll free Central Intake Reporting line at 1-877-542-2873. This line is open 24/7 and a trained case manager will take your information. The case manager will ask you for basic demographic information like names, addresses, names of siblings and other family members, in addition to details of your concerns. Please do not be alarmed if you do not know the answers to all of these questions. With regard to the details of the report, be prepared to describe the child's injuries or condition and to relay information the child told you. Also, give names of other persons who have knowledge of this situation. Explain why the child's situation is concerning you.

If you are unable to call the reporting line, you may fax your information to

615-361-7221 (Fax)
615-361-7041 (Fax)
615-361-7461 (Fax)

What will happen next?
Screening - First, the central intake staff will screen your information to determine if it meets the criteria for DCS involvement. This is called the screening decision. Many people call in legitimate concerns that are not necessarily appropriate for state intervention. The case manager who takes your call will ask if you want to receive notification of the screening decision and you will receive this by mail.

Assignment and Priority- If DCS investigates your report, the central intake staff will determine the timeframe for that response.

  • Priority 1 situations indicate imminent threat of serious harm or death and require a same day response, within 2-3 hours, response.
  • Priority 2 situation indicate risk of injuries that are not life threatening and do not require immediate medical care. These cases require a 48-hour response.
  • Priority 3 cases involve a lower risk of harm and DCS responds within 5 days of the report.

What if I have a situation where I am uncomfortable in allowing a child to go home after school?
If you have called in a report and need to know if and when DCS will respond, then you should follow up with the local DCS office. They can help you work through the current situation. If you continue to have concerns about the child going home, you may also report the situation to your local Law Enforcement Agency or Juvenile Court.

What happens after the report?
If DCS initiates an investigation or assessment, they will talk to and observe the victim, his/her siblings, the parents/caretakers, and any other persons who have knowledge about the situation. You may be contacted by DCS to provide further information.

Will I know the outcome of the investigation?
The actual investigative file is confidential so you will not be able to find out if the report was considered to be 'indicated' (or substantiated) and DCS's next steps in regard to the case. DCS makes every attempt to keep children safe in the most familiar environment, preserving connections with family, school, and community. They will look for ways to make the child safe in the home or with relatives, if that is possible.

Will DCS tell the parents that I called in the report?
By law, DCS and Juvenile Courts preserve the confidentiality of the name of the reporter. However, it is common for some parents to guess at the name of the reporter and to claim that DCS told the name. You should work with your local school system to determine how you should respond in the event a parent comes to school to challenge you or other school staff about the report. If you should make your initial report to law enforcement, you should know that police reports do NOT have the same protections as Juvenile Court and DCS files.