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Child Abuse


Legal Disclaimer: The following is basic legal information, provided as a public service by Wyoming’s lawyers. The information provided is not a substitute for speaking to an attorney.  Only an attorney can give you legal advice regarding your specific situation. Click here for help finding a lawyer


What is child abuse?

Child abuse is the maltreatment of a child. It can involve all forms of physical and emotional mistreatment, sexual abuse, neglect, or exploitation that results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, development, or dignity.

In Wyoming, abuse is defined as the infliction or causing of physical or mental injury, harm or imminent danger to the physical or mental health or welfare of a child, other than by accidental means.  See W.S. 14-3-202.

See Medline Plus for more information on child abuse.  

Are there different types of child abuse?

Yes, child abuse can come in many forms and can include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Neglect and negligent treatment
  • Emotional abuse and
  • Exploitation

See W.S. 14-3-202 for the definition of child abuse and different types of abuse.

What are the risk factors of child abuse?

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, research has uncovered a number of risk factors or attributes commonly associated with maltreatment.  Children in families and environments where these factors exist have a higher probability of experiencing maltreatment.

A greater understanding of risk factors can help professionals working with children and families identify maltreatment and high-risk situations so they can intervene appropriately.  It must be emphasized, however, that while certain factors often are present among families where maltreatment occurs, this does not mean that the presence of these factors necessarily leads to child abuse and neglect.

Common factors associated with increased risk of child maltreatment are often categorized as follows:

Child abuse can happen to any child from any economic background. To access the list of factors that contribute to abuse or neglect of children visit Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Are there signs of child abuse?

It can be difficult to know when a child is being abused; reactions can vary by age as well as by type of abuse. Common signs include:

  • Changes in mood and behavior
  • Changes in eating or sleeping
  • Changes in school performance and attendance
  • Lack of personal care or hygiene
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Untreated medical or dental problems
  • Poisoning
  • Apparent fear of parents
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior for child’s age
  • Sexual knowledge that’s inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Sleep problems
  • Trouble walking or sitting
  • Attempts to undress other people
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Blood in the child’s underwear
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches

For a more detailed list of symptoms of child abuse visit The Mayo Clinic, The Child Advocacy Centers of Wyoming, or The Child Welfare Information Gateway.  Also available in Spanish

How common is child abuse?

It is unknown how many children are affected by abuse.  However, data on child abuse in the State of Wyoming reveals that child abuse is a real problem around the state.

For a more detailed breakdown of statistics on child abuse in Wyoming visit Childhelp.org or The Child Advocacy Centers of Wyoming.

Who can be a "perpetrator of abuse" against a child?

Child abuse can be perpetrated by anyone who is involved with children.  Perpetrators can be parents, friends of parents, other children, older siblings, other relatives, and other individuals involved in a child’s life.

Any person who is in contact with the child can be a perpetrator of abuse.  A perpetrator is a person who has been determined to have caused or knowingly allowed the maltreatment of a child.  A person responsible for a child’s welfare can also abuse a child.

In Wyoming, a “person responsible for a child’s welfare” includes the child’s parent, non-custodial parent, guardian, custodian, stepparent, foster parent or other person, institution or agency having the physical custody or control of the child.

W.S. 14-3-202.

Why is child abuse under reported?

Many cases go unreported because child abuse is usually done in the privacy of one’s home.  Children are often too young to realize that the abuse is not normal.  Due to age, some children may be unable to express that they are being abused.  Other children may be ashamed of the abuse and try to hide it or be forbidden from going into public when bruises or other symptoms of abuse are visible.

Additionally, people are reluctant to intervene in actions of the family.  Individuals also are reluctant to intervene if they are uncertain that abuse is taking place.

Who is required to report child abuse and how is it reported?

In Wyoming,  every person who knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, or suspects that a child has been abused or neglected, or who observes any child being subjected to conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect has an obligation to immediately report it to the child protective agency or local law enforcement agency.   You don’t have to wait until you are certain that abuse is occurring; you should report concerns about child abuse as soon as possible.  

W.S. 14-3-205.

Report your concerns.  Most cases of child abuse go undetected.  Additionally, don’t assume that the abuse has already been reported.  You should report any and all suspected abuse in order to best protect children.  Keep in mind that by reporting potential abuse you are not required to prove that abuse is occurring, you are simply alerting authorities of the situation so that an investigation can be done.

Report child abuse to your local authorities, the Wyoming Department of Family Services, Child Protective Services or contact the following:

  • Call for emergency help: 911
  • Call your local enforcement agency (police)
  • Child Protective Services (307-777-5479)
  • Department of Family Services (307-777-3663)
  • Childhelp (800-422-4453)
  • National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD (1800-422-4453)

For more information on reporting child abuse visit the Child Advocacy Centers of Wyoming. This site also lists the phone numbers to local DFS Offices by city/town in Wyoming.

Who can I turn to for help with child abuse in Wyoming?

In Wyoming, you can contact the Wyoming Department of Family Services for more information.

The Child Protective Services (CPS)  and the Abuse and Neglect Reporting Guide may provide additional help.

W.S. 6-2-503 describes the penalties for child abuse.

What are things that can be done to prevent child abuse?

Several things can be done to prevent child abuse, including:

  • Early reporting of child abuse
  • Talk to your neighbors about looking out for one another’s children
  • Give used clothing, furniture and toys to another family
  • Be a nurturing parent
  • Learn what to do when your baby cries
  • Help a friend, relative, or neighbor
  • Help yourself
  • Get involved in the community
  • Help to develop parenting resources at the local library
  • Promote programs in school
  • Monitor your child’s television and video viewing
  • Volunteer at your local child abuse prevention program
  • Report suspected abuse or neglect

See Prevent Child Abuse Wyoming.

Visit Prevent Child Abuse Wyoming  and Child Advocacy Centers of Wyoming for details.