Advocacy & Support Services

We coordinate efforts of experts within the hospital and from external public and voluntary agencies to better serve children and their families.

As a member of the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force, we are the only designated medical center for medical evaluations of child trafficking victims. 

We also work to increase general awareness of abuse and what to do if you suspect it.

Recognizing Abuse & Neglect

The Protective Services Team at Lurie Children’s is actively involved in teaching professionals, parents and other concerned persons how to recognize child abuse and neglect. As the video below illustrates, bystanders often have an opportunity to help stop child abuse.

For children who have already fallen victim to child maltreatment, the most important factor is that someone can identify and stop the abuse. Below are some of the signs and symptoms for three major types of child maltreatment.

Physical Abuse

A physically abused child may have frequent, unusual or unexplained injuries, and may sometimes tell you that an adult is abusing them. It is not your job to investigate. Report the child's story to Child Protective Services and leave the investigation to them.

Suspicious injuries that may indicate child abuse include:

  • Frequent accidents or injuries
  • Any unexplained injury
  • Many bruises, or bruises in an infant or child who is not walking yet
  • Bruises in unusual places, such as on or behind ears, on the neck, abdomen or on the back of arms or legs
  • Burns or bruises showing the pattern of an object
  • Frequent or unexplained broken bones
  • Broken bones in an infant or a child who is not walking yet
  • Human bite marks
  • An injury that obviously requires medical care but the parent delays seeking medical care  

Suspect Physical Child Abuse

If the child:

  • Reports the injury is from a parent or adult caregiver
  • Wears clothing to purposely conceal an injury or that is not seasonal, such as long sleeves and pants in the summer
  • Refuses to undress for gym or for required physical exams at school
  • Seems frightened by parents or caregivers
  • Is often late or absent from school
  • Comes early to school and seems reluctant to go home afterwards
  • Is overly compliant, withdrawn, gives in readily and allows others to do for them without protest

If the parent(s):

  • Takes the child to different physicians or hospitals for each injury
  • Gives inconsistent or vague explanations for the child's injuries
  • Describes the child as evil or bad
  • Has  little or no interest in the child's well-being
  • Does not respond appropriate to the child's pain
  • Blames the child for their injuries
  • Consistently criticizes and has inappropriate expectations of the child

Be aware that parents and others who care for children may be caring and good caretakers under most circumstances, but given a particular set of circumstances, they may hurt a child.

Child Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse of children may be easily hidden, but there are several warning signs. For example, some sexually abused children display inappropriate sexual behaviors with other children or adults. They may exhibit behavior changes, changes in school performance, problems sleeping or changes in appetite. Children who are sexually abused may complain of headaches, stomach aches or genital pain. While some sexually abused children tell people of the abuse, many do not (even as adults).

Get Involved

If a child describes sexual abuse or tells you they’re being abused, do not try to investigate and determine if they are telling the truth. Leave that to the professionals. Report the abuse immediately to Child Protective Services or to law enforcement. It is important that the child be evaluated by professionals who are experienced in evaluating child sexual abuse. 

Suspect child sexual abuse if:

  • You witness inappropriate sexual behaviors between an adult and a child
  • A child demonstrates sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge or behaviors
  • Engages in sexualized play
  • Imitates sexual intercourse

If a child reports sexual abuse, don't ignore it. Report suspected abuse to the authorities.


Child neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment. Nearly two-thirds of all reports to Child Protective Services involve some form of child neglect.

Neglect of a child can be the failure to provide any of the following:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Supervision
  • Protection from harm
  • Education
  • Attention to emotional needs
  • Medical treatment

Medical neglect is when a parent or caregiver fails to seek out medical care for a child with a new or existing medical problem. If a parent initially brings a child for medical care, but doesn't follow through with a child's treatment plan or medications, this may also be considered medical neglect.

Supervisory neglect is when a child is left alone in inappropriate situations for the child's age and developmental stage. Some examples of supervisory neglect are an infant left in the care of a 6-year-old sibling or a 10- and 12-year-old left alone for a week while parents are on vacation.

What to Do

If you see abuse, stop it. Anyone can call DCFS and report abuse or neglect. Please call 1.800.422.4453 to report maltreatment. Unfortunately people frequently witness child abuse and are afraid to do anything about it. In fact, half of all people that witnessed child maltreatment said they did nothing.

Child Abuse Signs & Situations

The Protective Services Team is committed not only to identify and treat child victims of abuse and neglect, but also to help prevent future cases. We are committed to working with our community to prevent child abuse before it happens.

The Protective Services Team's goal is to strive that all children served by the hospital are in a safe and healthy environment by training professionals, parents and the community about the prevention, identification and treatment of child abuse and neglect. Review the topics below to learn more.

Important Phone Numbers

  • To report suspected child abuse and neglect in Illinois: 1.800.252.2873
  • To report suspected child abuse and neglect outside of Illinois: 1.800.422.4453
  • For information about Prevent Child Abuse America: 1.800.244.5373


Supportive Phone Numbers in Illinois

Additional Resources

Visit the following helpful and physician-recommended resources to learn more about child abuse and prevention.