Child Abuse and Neglect

 If you have concerns about a child possibly being abused or neglected, call the Child Protective Services (CPS) Hotline at 703-324-7400 (for hearing impaired: 711-Virginia Relay Center), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How to recognize child abuse and neglect...

The most commonly recognized types of abuse and neglect are physical abuse, physical neglect, emotional abuse, emotional neglect and sexual abuse or exploitation. Signs of abuse and neglect include:

  • A child with repeated injuries such as bruises, welts, or burns
  • A child who is withdrawn, angry, depressed, aggressive
  • A child who exhibits extremes in behavior, such as being excessively aggressive or being overly compliant; being afraid to go with a caretaker or clinging and not wanting to separate
  • A child who is inadequately dressed for the weather, is malnourished, physically dirty, tired, or unsupervised; or is not receiving needed medical treatment
  • A child who shows signs of or reports sexual abuse or has a sexually transmitted disease.

If you are a victim of child abuse/neglect, if you are an alleged perpetrator of child abuse/neglect or if your children have been removed from you, your case will be heard in the Juvenile Court. Possible court actions include: a charge filed by a police officer, a Preliminary Protective Order filed by Child Protective Services or an Emergency Removal filed by Child Protective Services. If a Preliminary Protective Order or an Emergency Removal has been filed against you, you will have a court hearing within five days. The next hearing, one that determines preponderance of guilt, is held within thirty days. The final merits hearing is held within seventy five days. That is the first hearing at which a final disposition in the case is made.

For further information

See the Department of Family services website at:

Legal Definition of Child Abuse/Neglect

According to Section 16.1-228 of the Code of Virginia, abused or neglected child means any child:

  1. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care creates or inflicts, threatens to create or inflict, or allows to be created or inflicted upon such child a physical or mental injury by other than accidental means, or creates a substantial risk of death, disfigurement or impairment of bodily or mental functions, including, but not limited to, a child who is with his parent or other person responsible for his care either (i) during the manufacture or attempted manufacture of a Schedule I or II controlled substance, or (ii) during the unlawful sale of such substance by that child's parents or other person responsible for his care, where such manufacture, or attempted manufacture or unlawful sale would constitute a felony violation of § 18.2-248;
  2. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care neglects or refuses to provide care necessary for his health; however, no child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination shall for that reason alone be considered to be an abused or neglected child;
  3. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care abandons such child;
  4. Whose parents or other person responsible for his care commits or allows to be committed any sexual act upon a child in violation of the law; or
  5. Who is without parental care or guardianship caused by the unreasonable absence or the mental or physical incapacity of the child's parent, guardian, legal custodian or other person standing in loco parentis.

If a civil proceeding under this chapter is based solely on the parent having left the child at a hospital or rescue squad, it shall be an affirmative defense that such parent safely delivered the child to a hospital that provides 24-hour emergency services or to an attended rescue squad that employs emergency medical technicians, within 14 days of the child's birth. For purposes of terminating parental rights pursuant to § 16.1-283 and placement for adoption, the court may find such a child is a neglected child upon the ground of abandonment.

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