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Recovering: Taking Care of Yourself

Abuse and neglect are traumatic experiences for everyone involved. If you witness abuse or neglect or are involved in reporting it, you can also feel traumatized by the experience. This lesson will provide strategies for strengthening your own resilience through the protective factors framework.

  • Recognize the emotions associated with suspecting and reporting child abuse or neglect.
  • Identify the protective factors that can help you manage the stress related to child abuse and neglect in homes and programs.
  • Identify strategies related to each protective factor for promoting your own wellness and building resilience.



Think about Timothy, the child in the Explore section of the previous lessons. Think about the day his caregiver noticed the burns on his shoulders. If he were a child in your program, would you know what to do to help? Would you know exactly who to call and what to say? Would you take action like Timothy’s caregivers did?

By the end of this lesson, we hope you will answer “yes” to all these questions. The specific procedures and policies for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect varies across states , services, and installations. This lesson will provide an overview of reporting procedures, but you will be responsible for identifying your specific reporting procedures in the Apply section of this lesson.

Department of Defense Requirements for Reporting

You play a key role in ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of the children and youth under your care and supervision. If you suspect child abuse, reporting to your installation's Family Advocacy Program, your Reporting Point of Contact (RPOC) in Army programs, Child Protective Services (if located in the U.S.), and law enforcement is a moral and legal obligation. All individuals working or volunteering with children and youth in a DoD-sponsored facility or activity are mandated to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the installation Family Advocacy Program (FAP), the DoD program designated to address child abuse and neglect in military families. In addition, Department of Defense personnel who are considered “covered professionals” are required to report suspected child abuse and neglect, regardless of whether the incident occurred on or off the installation, to the appropriate local Child Protective Services (CPS) agency if located in the U.S., and law enforcement. CPS investigates the allegation, and FAP works in collaboration with CPS to ensure the safety of the child and to provide treatment and resources for the parents as appropriate. You should ensure you are following your installation’s reporting policies and procedures when a report is made. Department of Defense policy and in many cases federal and state laws require you to report suspected child abuse. Ideally, a report will prompt early intervention before a child is hurt. The following information will help you take the important steps in contacting CPS, FAP, and law enforcement and understand how those calls are assessed.

How to Report Child Abuse

If you know or suspect a child has been abused or neglected, whether by a parent, staff member, provider, or volunteer on or off an installation, follow your Service’s procedures for reporting your concern to the installation FAP, local CPS agency, and law enforcement officials.

Each installation that supports military families has a FAP point of contact to receive calls concerning the safety and welfare of children. The number to call is publicized throughout the military community. You can also call your installation’s Family Support Center or visit the installation’s website for information.

Assessing Reports of Child Abuse

In most states, child abuse calls can be made anonymously to Child Protective Services (CPS), your installation’s FAP, and law enforcement, however the contact information of the reporting person is almost always collected. As mandated reporters, you should provide your contact information for documentation and follow-up purposes. When suspected abuse is reported, a team will assess the safety and welfare of the child.

When FAP personnel receive a call concerning the safety and welfare of a child, they ensure that everyone who is capable of protecting the safety and well-being of the child (the active-duty member’s commander, the medical treatment facility, CPS, and law enforcement) is aware of the risk and protective factors that are affecting the family. These community members often work as a team to ensure that children are protected, the parents receive appropriate intervention, and the family receives the services they need to be able to form more healthy relationships. CPS, FAP, and law enforcement will not share the identity of the individual who made the report with the family.

Civilian CPS also responds to calls on many U.S.-based installations concerning the safety and welfare of children. They may visit the identified child (either at the child’s program or home), and they will also interview the child’s parents or guardian. If they determine there is no evidence of abuse, the case will likely be closed. In some cases, FAP or CPS may refer the family for counseling if they feel the family’s life circumstances place them at risk for abuse or neglect.

If CPS determines that abuse or neglect did occur, the civilian family court system will become involved. Sometimes, the judge will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests. This attorney will review all available information and evidence from CPS, FAP, and law enforcement, and make recommendations to the court based on what they believe is in the child’s best interest.

If the local civilian law enforcement agency is involved and its investigation finds that abuse occurred, misdemeanor or felony criminal charges may be brought. If a service member is convicted of a criminal offense in civilian court, the military may still decide to proceed with a court-martial hearing or other disciplinary action, including separation from the service.

Child Abuse at a DoD-Sponsored Facility or Activity

The Department of Defense makes every effort to ensure the safety and well-being of children involved in DoD facilities, such as schools or child development centers, and DoD-sponsored activities, such as youth sports or recreation programs. This includes conducting thorough background checks and training all staff and volunteers involved with these facilities and programs.

Your program has worked with the installation Reporting Point of Contact (RPOC) and/or Family Advocacy Program manager to establish procedures for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect. These procedures state who you report to, what information to provide, and what to do after reporting. Make sure you are familiar with the procedures on your installation. In Army programs, Child and Youth Services personnel are required to report all incidents of suspected child abuse or neglect to the RPOC and local CPS. Be prepared to share:

Your service has specific procedures that describe who you report to, what information to provide, and what to do after reporting. Make sure you are familiar with the procedures on your installation. In the Apply section, you will have an opportunity to record your program’s specific procedures. In U.S. Air Force programs, you are required to report all suspected child abuse and neglect both by telephone and in writing to the Family Advocacy Officer. Be prepared to share:

Your service has specific procedures that describe who you report to, what information to provide, and what to do after reporting. Make sure you are familiar with the procedures on your installation. In the Apply section, you will have an opportunity to record your program’s specific procedures. All Child and Youth Programs (CYP) Professionals are mandated reporters by law and Marine Corps policy. Any alleged or suspected child abuse must be reported to the installation Family Advocacy Program (FAP) office, Provost Marshal Office (PMO), and local Child Welfare Services (CWS). Reporting procedures remain the same regardless of whether the alleged or suspected abuser is a professional, parent, or other caregiver. For programs outside of the continental United States (OCONUS), the reporting requirements are nearly identical except that OCONUS locations generally do not have access to a local CPS and thus must work directly with the installation FAP to ensure complete reporting. Follow your installation’s reporting procedures. Be prepared to share:

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you must make a report to local Child Protective Services or law enforcement. You can find out where to call by visiting the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s state reporting numbers website: Call the reporting number relevant to your state and provide the following information:

  • Name of victim
  • Age of victim
  • Name and contact information for parents or guardians
  • Reasons for suspected abuse or neglect
  • Description and location of victim’s physical injuries (if applicable)
  • Information freely disclosed by victim
  • Current location of victim
  • Known information regarding incident or chronology of events
  • You may be asked if you are a mandated reporter (several states require mandated reporters to disclose their identity)
  • You may be asked if you would like to disclose your identity

As a mandated reporter, it is good practice to document your call with details such as:

  • Who you spoke to
  • What time you made the call
  • What information you were able to provide

After the Call

Reporting suspected child abuse or neglect can be a stressful event. It is important to mentally prepare yourself for what happens after the call.

In most states, your report will be evaluated by CPS. If there is enough evidence to warrant an investigation, a caseworker will initiate the investigation. Children, families, and caregivers may be contacted and interviewed. CPS will determine whether the claim is substantiated and whether the child is safe in the home. If the report of abuse involves alleged criminal acts, law enforcement will be contacted, and the investigation will be conducted jointly.

On military installations, the following will occur after a report has been made:

After a report of child abuse has been received, FAP is required to notify law enforcement, the appropriate child welfare services agency, and Command. Overseas, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with a host nation defines how investigation and prosecution of crimes committed on installations will be handled. FAP will assess the incident and present the information to the installation Incident Determination Committee (IDC). The IDC is composed of the deputy to the installation or garrison commander, the senior enlisted noncommissioned officer advisor to the installation commander or garrison commander, legal, law enforcement, FAP, a medical professional, and the command representative for the agency or sponsor. Civilian CPS agencies and their counterparts in host countries may also participate and provide information on incidents that involve their response. This committee is responsible for determining whether the incident meets the DoD definition of child abuse or neglect. If the incident meets the criteria (is substantiated), the incident is entered into the Central Registry. FAP offers supportive services to all families regardless of the outcome of the IDC. FAP is an important team member in the coordinated response to suspected child abuse and neglect. FAP, in coordination with CPS, takes steps to protect the child and provide the family with counseling or other assistance.

When a report of suspected sexual abuse involves multiple victims in an out-of-home care setting at an installation in the United States or overseas, the DoD may deploy a Family Advocacy Command Assistance Team (FACAT). Under the Commander’s supervision, the FACAT assists in investigation, assessment, and case management.

When a report of suspected abuse involves a staff member, the alleged offender will be reassigned to a position without child contact until a determination is made if the referral meets or does not meet the criteria or definition of child abuse or neglect. Once you have made a report to your RPOC and local CPS, you have fulfilled your legal reporting requirements. After a report, your RPOC will:

  • Notify the Military Police if they have not already been notified.
  • Notify the Chief and FAP/IDC chairperson, so a timely report can be made to the commander and a case manager assigned.
  • Notify the local Inspector General’s office in allegations involving general officers, promotable colonels, and Senior Executive Services civilians.
  • Notify the Child and Youth Services coordinator when a report involves child abuse alleged to have occurred in a Child and Youth Services quarter or facility-based operation or involved a Child and Youth Services employee.
  • Notify the Family Advocacy Program Manager responsible for notifying the chain of command.
  • Based on local memorandums of agreement with a host nation, local child protective services, and local law enforcement, the RPOC may have additional notification requirements.

Regardless of where you work, it is unlikely you will ever hear the results of your report. Confidentiality laws protect families’ privacy. Also know that it is not uncommon for families to withdraw their child from the program after an allegation of abuse. The report you made may be the last piece of information you have about a child’s situation, but you should feel confident that you fulfilled your responsibilities. If the child and the family remain in your program, your team can continue to help and support the family by focusing on enhancing protective factors in the family and community.

Sometimes caregivers worry that they could be sued or punished for making a report. This is not the case. You are protected by law as a mandated reporter. A family cannot sue you for making a report in good faith. Likewise, you cannot be retaliated against for making a report in good faith about a suspected incident in your program.

Common Concerns That Prevent Staff Members From Making Reports

1. We live in a small community. Will my report ruin the parent’s career?

Child development program staff members sometimes worry that reporting suspected child abuse or neglect might impact a Service member’s career or get the individual “fired.” This can make staff members hesitant to make a report, but you should know that law enforcement and CPS CPS, FAP, law enforcement, and command, want to keep victims of abuse safe. But they also want to help families work through their parenting issues so individuals service members can develop healthier relationships and stay in the military services whenever possible. Thinking about what happens to the military career of a family member has no legal bearing on the requirement to report suspected child abuse or neglect.

2. I don’t want to “turn in” my coworker.

When you suspect a coworker or team member of child abuse or neglect, you might find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. You might feel like you are “turning in” your coworker, and that is hard. Remember, though, that it is your job to keep children safe. You are a mandated reporter and must report your suspicions. Failure to do so can have devastating consequences for children and for yourself. Remember, you cannot be retaliated against in the workplace for your report. Talk to someone you trust if you need support.

3. What if I’m wrong, what if it’s not abuse?

As a mandated reporter, it is your duty to report, even if it is just a suspicion. You are not responsible to fully investigate the situation. It is your role to report observed and suspected abuse or neglect. It is your responsibility to keep children safe. Remember, you do not need to make the call alone, however you must personally make the call. You can seek guidance on reporting from a trainer, coach, or administrator. If your trainer, coach, or administrator is involved in the abuse or neglect, follow the chain of command to the person above them. The important thing is to make the call, even if it is based on just a suspicion, to protect the safety of the child.

4. Will they tell the family that I was the one to make the report?

All jurisdictions have provisions in statute to maintain the confidentiality of abuse and neglect records. The identity of the reporter is specifically protected from disclosure to the individual suspected of abuse in 44 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico. This protection is maintained even when other information from the report may be disclosed. Release of the reporter’s identity is allowed in some jurisdictions under specific circumstances or to specific departments or officials, for example, when information is needed for conducting an investigation or family assessment or upon a finding that the reporter knowingly made a false report. In six states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, the reporter can waive confidentiality and give consent to the release of their name.

How Reporting Abuse or Neglect Might Affect You

You will feel a range of emotions after making a report: frustrated, angry, disappointed, nervous, relieved. All of these emotions are expected. Make sure you talk to someone to help you deal with the emotions you are feeling. The following video helps explain what you might experience after a report and how you can get help.

After the Report: Emotions

Learn about recognizing and dealing with the emotions of a report.


Watch this video to learn more about reporting procedures from the Family Advocacy Program.

Family Advocacy Program: Reporting Procedures

Watch this video to learn more about reporting procedures from the Family Advocacy Program.

Now learn about what to expect after the call.

Family Advocacy Program: What to Expect After the Report

Watch this video to learn more about what happens after you make a report.


As you learned in Lesson 1, you have a responsibility to report a suspected case of abuse or neglect. It is not your job to identify the abuser. If you suspect abuse, you need to make a report and allow investigators to determine if abuse or neglect is occurring.

  • Observe children for signs of abuse or neglect.
  • Be familiar with reporting procedures for your installation or state/host nation.
  • Post reporting procedures in your classroom or know where they are posted in your program.
  • Prepare yourself for the call. Be sure you have the correct spelling of the child’s legal name, the address of the child’s parents or guardians, and all the details outlined earlier in this lesson.
  • If you suspect abuse or neglect, you can call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). This line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can help you find emergency resources.
  • Find Service-specific guidance for making a report of child abuse or neglect in the attachments at the end of this Learn section.


There are few professional experiences as stressful as suspecting and reporting child abuse or neglect. Before and after the report, you will likely feel a range of emotions. Read these quotes from professionals who have experienced this situation. Reflect on how you might feel.

Before the Report...

  • “I was so nervous I was making a mistake. I just thought this couldn’t be possible. I knew the man I was reporting and had always thought he was a nice guy.”

  • “I was afraid that I would hurt the family’s feelings and put a wall up between us. I knew they needed help, but I just didn’t know if it was the right thing to do.”

  • “I was afraid that the child would get hurt worse if I reported…that she would get in trouble at home.”

  • “I was confident I was doing the right thing. I was so angry that such a thing could happen to the child.”

  • “I was afraid people wouldn’t believe me.”  

  • “I was really disappointed in the situation. I knew the mom could lose her job for this, and those were high stakes to consider.”

After the Report...

  • “I was relieved to have admitted what I saw.”  

  • “I was anxious about how the family would respond.”  

  • “I really needed to know whether I was right. I was frustrated that I couldn’t get answers to my questions about the report.”


The emotions can be even more complicated when you suspect and report child abuse or neglect that occurred in your own program. You may suspect one of your colleagues or friends. You may be neighbors or attend the same community events. You might worry that you will be judged or socially excluded because of your report. You may feel compelled to “cover” for someone you know or like. You may also feel pressured to protect the reputation of your program. All of these emotions are natural, but you must remember your legal obligation to protect children from harm. If a child has been harmed or is at imminent risk of harm, you must make a report. Remember, you are in the right. It is not okay for anyone to pressure you to not report a clear suspicion of abuse or neglect. Do not ignore your instincts. A child’s life may depend on it.

The stress of this type of event is immense. It can feel overwhelming when you add your own very real-life stressors—child rearing, marital conflict, housing issues, financial concerns. It is important that you take care of yourself. You must be at your best to do the important work of caring for children every day. When you feel calm, comfortable, and confident, you are better able to build relationships with families. The same protective factors that help families cope with challenges apply to all of us as adults. Let’s explore each of the protective factors and how they might apply to your own well-being. This material has been adapted from the Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action 2013 Resource Guide by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Strengthening Families Protective Factors (Figure 1)

  1. Adult Resilience

    We all need the ability to cope with the stresses of everyday life. In the context of this particular course, let’s think about the stresses associated with suspecting and reporting child abuse or neglect. The emotions you experience may make you feel less capable of doing your job. The stress may reduce your capacity to cope with the stresses of your own family life. Each one of us has strengths we can draw upon: faith, flexibility, humor, communication skills, problem-solving skills, mutually supportive caring relationships, or the ability to identify and access outside resources ( We can take the time to make sure we nurture and expand these strengths in ourselves and others.

  2. Knowledge of Child Development

    It seems obvious, but understanding typical child development will help you continue to do your job during stressful times. It will enrich your ability to build connections with children and respond to them in developmentally appropriate ways. Your knowledge of child development can help you recover from a stressful event like reporting a suspicion of abuse or neglect. It will help you feel more confident continuing to work with children and families every day. By understanding typical development, you will develop the tools you need to talk to coworkers or children about their experiences and emotions—and your own.

  3. Social Connections

    Research suggests that strong social connections promote health, wellness, and longevity. By creating or strengthening social relationships in your own life, you will be better able to do your job well.

  4. Concrete Supports

    We all need tools to help us do our jobs. It is okay—and important—to ask for help when it is needed. Talk to your trainer or supervisor about ways you can get new ideas for your classroom, individual children, or families. Also remember that you are not immune to stress outside of work, too. You might be experiencing any number of stressors at home. Seek out and use community resources, whether it’s assistance with filing taxes, finding quality health care, or job assistance for a spouse or partner.

  5. Social and Emotional Competence of Children

    This is the foundation of the work you do every day in child development programs. Focusing on promoting children’s social and emotional competence can help you feel good about the work you do and can help you recover from trauma. You will learn much more about this topic in the Social and Guidance courses. For now, understand your role as one of promoting healthy relationships, communication skills, and self-expression.

Be proactive. It’s helpful to acknowledge and accept your emotions during hard times, having feelings is a normal human experience. Identify what is causing the stress and begin to problem-solve. It’s also important to think about how to solve problems, your own problem-solving skills, and managing solutions by turning problem-solving into smaller steps.

Keep things in perspective. How you think can play a significant part in how you feel—and how resilient you are when faced with obstacles. If you feel overwhelmed, seek out support to provide perspective on a problem.


You do hard work every day. To keep yourself mentally and physically healthy, you must learn to recognize your own signs of stress. Watch this video to learn more about stress and protecting your own mental health.

Taking Care of Yourself

Learn to recognize your own signs of stress.


Consider the following strategies adapted from Preventing Child Maltreatment and Promoting Well-Being: A Network for Action 2013 Resource Guide by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Building Your Resilience

  • Build trusting relationships with the families you serve and the coworkers you see every day. Take the time to get to know these people. The time spent investing in relationships through conversations and celebrations can help you enjoy your job more and do better at it.
  • Find out about mental health support resources in your programor on your installation. Mental health professionals should be part of your team. Talk to them whenever you feel the need, and make sure families can access their services. Find out if non-medical counseling is an option to help you work through short-term stressors. Explore for more information.
  • Watch for early signs of stress in yourself. Get help early.
  • Seek out professional development on strategies that reduce stress: setting goals, anticipating difficulties, solving problems, communication, and self-care.
  • Remember that mental health and physical health are interrelated. Take the time to exercise, eat well, and seek out opportunities for relaxation, meditation, or prayer.

Knowledge of Child Development

  • Complete the courses on the Virtual Laboratory School. These courses will help you understand social, cognitive, and physical development. They will also help you learn and use effective practices in your work with children.
  • Seek out resources in your community and online. There are a variety of tools available from reputable agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC has compiled easily accessible information about developmental milestones. You can also find information at educational resource centers or from your trainer.
  • Take advantage of professional development opportunities. Attend conferences and workshops. Participate in coaching or mentoring opportunities.

Social Connections

  • Use (or talk to management about creating) a relaxing space in your program where you can take a break.
  • Attend social events, like potlucks, at your program. Talk to families and coworkers.
  • Develop a new hobby or expand an old one. Take a class on a topic that interests you. Community colleges, local retailers, and community recreation departments offer inexpensive courses around a variety of topics like cooking, technology, foreign languages, exercise, and knitting.
  • Build or retain strong connections with your neighborhood, place of worship, or other community institutions.

Concrete Supports

  • Admit when you need help. If you are struggling with finances, relationship issues, or other personal concerns, don’t let yourself become overwhelmed. Be a role model for the families you serve and get the help you need.
  • Learn about health care options, child care subsidies, and other benefits that might help you and the families you serve.
  • Watch for signs of stress in yourself and talk to someone who can help. If you have a history of trauma yourself, you may be especially vulnerable to stress.

Social and Emotional Competence of Children

  • Talk to your trainer or supervisor about the curriculum or strategies your program uses to promote social and emotional competence.
  • Identify the key social skills children need during the infant and toddler years. Create and post a chart of developmental milestones as a reminder for yourself, coworkers, and families.
  • Remember that you can be a safe and stable influence in a child’s life.


You have learned a lot in the past few lessons about Timothy and his family. Take some time to reflect on Timothy’s experiences and the experiences of his family. View and complete the Infant Case Study: Part 4 activity. Reflect upon the questions and share your responses with a trainer, coach, or administrator. Then review the suggested responses for additional reflections.


Take some time to think about how to handle your own stress. Read the Stress Tip Sheet and reflect upon the areas of your own life that could be strengthened or supported. In addition to the Stress Tip Sheet attachment below, refer to the following websites for:


Protective Factors:
Attributes of individuals, families, communities, or society that decrease or eliminate risk and increase the health and well-being of children and families
The ability to solve problems and bounce back from life’s challenges
An experience or event that causes stress


Which of the following is not a way you could build your own resilience? 
True or false? Once you have taken a class on child development, there is never anything more you need to learn. 
Your coworker, Theresa, feels like your program isn’t a very social place to work. You two decide to form a social committee. What might you do to help build social connections between staff members? 
What concrete supports are available in your workplace or community? 
Where can you learn more about promoting the social and emotional competence of children? 
References & Resources

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Psychology Help Center Stress Tip Sheet.

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Building Your Resilience.

Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation. (n.d.). Taking Care of Ourselves & Stress Reduction.

Center for the Study of Social Policy. (2018). Strengthening Families: A Protective Factors Framework.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Violence Prevention.