Child Abuse & Neglect

Information and FAQs for Families and Community Stakeholders

Contact Information for Local Resources

Baltimore County Department of Social Services

410-887-TIME (8463) Between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on business days

After 4:30 and on weekends and state holidays you may call the after-hours service at 410-583-9398

Police Department Crimes Against Children Unit


Consultation services/clarifications are available from Child Protective Services, Baltimore County Department of Social Services at 410-887-8463.

Visit the Baltimore County Child Protective Services Website:

All other Maryland Counties:

Definition of Child Abuse

What constitutes Physical Abuse?

The physical injury of a child by any parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child, or by any household or family member, under circumstances that indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed.

Observable signs of injuries:

  • Bruises
  • Black eyes
  • Burns
  • Welts
  • Cuts
  • Abrasions

Behavioral Signs of Physical Abuse:

  • overly shy

  • obedient
  • aggression
  • distrust

What is mental injury (abuse or neglect)?

The observable, identifiable, and substantial impairment of a child’s mental or psychological ability to function caused by an act of a parent, caretaker, household, or family member.

Signs of Mental Injury:

  • Physically and/or emotionally isolating the child
  • Threatening the child repeatedly and severely

Definition of Sexual Abuse

Any act that involves sexual molestation or exploitation of a child by a parent, caregiver, or other person who has permanent or temporary care, custody or responsibility or supervision of a child or by any household or family member, whether physical injuries are sustained or not. Child sexual abuse includes, but is not limited to, allowing or encouraging a child to engage in: obscene photography, film, poses or similar activity; pornographic photography; prostitution; human trafficking; incest; rape; a sexual offense in any degree; sodomy; or an unnatural or perverted sexual practice.

Behavioral Signs of Sexual Abuse:

  • Nightmares and/or trouble sleeping
  • Bed wetting
  • Change in appetite
  • Fear of certain people, places, activities
  • Mood swings: Rage, Anger, Fear, anxiety, insecure or withdrawn
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Feeling shameful or guilty
  • Isolating oneself or withdrawing from specific individual(s)
  • Resisting removing clothes during appropriate times (bedtime, bath time)
  • Change in academic performance
  • Running away from home
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Acting out sexually and/or exhibiting adult sexual behaviors, knowledge, and language

Sexual Abuse Prevention

See the attachment below for more information about warning signs and how to support a child who discloses that they have been sexually abused.

Definition of Child Neglect

What constitutes neglect?

Includes the leaving of a child (under 8) unattended or other failure to give proper care and attention to a child by any parent, caregiver, or other person who has permanent or temporary care, custody, or responsibility for supervision of the child under circumstances that indicate the child’s health or welfare is harmed or placed at substantial risk or that mental injury to the child or a substantial risk of mental injury may result.

The following are examples of child neglect that may be appropriate for referral to Baltimore County Department of Social Services (DSS), Child Protective Services (CPS):

  • Child left unattended or inadequately supervised for long periods of time, or with responsibilities beyond the child’s capacities.
  • Child showing signs of failure to thrive, that have not been explained by a medical condition, such as evidence that the child is receiving insufficient food.
  • Child not receiving essential medical, mental health, or dental treatment to the extent that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of harm.
  • Child wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather that creates risk to the child’s health.
  • Child living in a home where safety standards put the child’s health or welfare at substantial risk of harm.

Unattended Child Law

A child must be:

  • At least 8 years old to be left alone in a house or car.
  • At least 13 years old to babysit a child under the age of 8 years old.

Generally, it is up to the parent to decide the amount of time and whether a child is mature enough to babysit or be home alone. Keep in mind that these are guidelines. Not every 13 year old can babysit and not every 8 year old can care for themselves. This has to be done within reason. Also, leaving a child home for a nightly work shift by themselves is not reasonable.

Definition of Human Sex Trafficking

The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, where the person is under the age of 18 years.

**The definition is inclusive of commercial sex acts in which there is no known pimp or trafficker.

Signs a child may be involved in Human Sex Trafficking:

  • Presence of an “older boyfriend or girlfriend”
  • Branding tattoos such as bar codes
  • Truancy or unexplained absences
  • Sudden change in attire, behavior or material possessions (eg. Expensive purses, clothing, shoes, phones, etc…)
  • References to travel to other cities, sporting events or conferences
  • References to commercial sex industry language and terms
  • More secretive or sudden change of peer groups

Local resources:

Turnaround, Inc. provides support and counseling for victims of Human Sex Trafficking. Visit for more information.

Am I protected if I do make a report?

Anyone who reports in good faith, participates in the making of a report or the investigation of child abuse or neglect, or in any judicial proceedings, is immune from any civil liability or criminal penalty. A good faith report is based upon honest beliefs, absence of malice, and no conscious attempt to falsify information.

Additional Resources

United Way: 211

Warm Line: Dial 211 or direct line 443.608.9182

Crisis text line: Text the word "HOME" to 741741 for free 24 hour support

Maryland Suicide and Crisis Hotline: 1.800.422.0009

Baltimore County Crisis Response: 410.931.2214

The Trevor Project: 1.866.488.7386 or text START to 678678

Maryland Food Bank: 410.737.8282

BCPS School Based Resources

Each school has a CPS Liaison who serves as the school’s contact person for all DSS and/or police department investigations conducted in the school, including requests for student records related to the investigation.