Child Abuse and Neglect

Mandatory Reporting Requirement of Child Abuse and Neglect

In accordance with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Policy on Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect, all UW-Madison employees (under Wisconsin Executive Order #54), are required to immediately report child abuse or neglect to Child Protective Services (CPS) or law enforcement if, in the course of employment, the employee observes an incident or threat of child abuse or neglect, or learns of an incident or threat of child abuse or neglect, and the employee has reasonable cause to believe that child abuse or neglect has occurred or will occur. Volunteers working for UW-Madison sponsored programs or activities are also expected to report suspected abuse or neglect.

A UW-Madison employee who is a mandatory reporter under Wis. Stat. § 48.981(2)(a) shall comply with the requirements of the state mandatory reporter law.

Deciding to get involved in a situation of suspected abuse or neglect can be difficult. It is, however, a decision that may be crucial to a child not only today, but also in the future.

Caregivers/maltreaters who have abused or neglected their children may need services and support to provide safe care for their children. The sooner an issue is reported, the sooner the child can be helped.

No UW-Madison employee making a report of suspected child abuse or neglect to child protective services or law enforcement, in good faith, may be discharged from employment, disciplined or otherwise discriminated against in regard to employment, or threatened with any such treatment, for so doing.

Download PDFs of UW-Madison Child Abuse Reporting materials:

Message from the Provost(Read the translated message in Chinese, Hmong, Spanish, and Tibetan)

Definition of Child

For purposes of reporting child abuse and neglect, a “child” is a person who is less than 18 years of age.

Physical Abuse

Definition: Physical injury inflicted on a child by other than accidental means. Physical injury includes, not is not limited to, lacerations, fractured bones, burns, internal injuries, severe or frequent bruising or great bodily harm.

Signs of physical abuse

  • Bruises and welts
  • Injuries in the shape of an object (belt, cord)
  • Unexplained burns on palms, soles of feet, back
  • Fractures that do not fit the story of how an injury occurred
  • Delay in seeking medical help
  • Extremes in behavior: very aggressive or withdrawn and shy
  • Afraid to go home
  • Frightened of parents
  • Fearful of other adults

Sexual Abuse

Definition: Sexual intercourse or sexual touching of a child; recording or displaying of a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct; forcing a child to view or listen to sexual activity; exposing genitals or pubic area to a child or exposing a child’s genitals or pubic area for purposes of sexual gratification; or permitting, allowing or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution.

Signs of child sexual abuse

  • Pain, swelling or itching in genital area
  • Bruises, bleeding, discharge in genital area
  • Difficulty walking or sitting, frequent urination, pain
  • Stained or bloody underclothing
  • Venereal disease
  • Refusal to take part in gym or other exercises
  • Poor peer relationships
  • Unusual interest in sex for age
  • Drastic change in school achievement
  • Runaway or delinquent
  • Regressive or childlike behavior

Note: Sexual abuse does not include consensual sexual contact with anyone 16-17 years old.

Abuse as Manufacturing of Methamphetamines

Definition: It is child abuse to manufacture methamphetamines with a child present, or in a child’s home or under any other circumstances in which a reasonable person should have known that the manufacture would be seen, heard, or smelled by a child.

Emotional Abuse

Definition: “Emotional damage” for which the child’s parent, guardian or legal custodian has neglected, refused or been unable, for reasons other than poverty, to obtain the necessary treatment or take steps to ameliorate the symptoms.

Emotional Damage

Definition: Harm to a child’s psychological or intellectual functioning which is exhibited by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or aggression. Emotional damage may be demonstrated by substantial and observable changes in behavior, emotional response or learning which are incompatible with the child’s age or stage of development.

Signs of emotional damage

  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-denigration
  • Severe depression
  • Aggression
  • Withdrawal
  • Severe anxiety


Definition: When a parent—or caretaker—fails, refuses or is unable, for reasons other than poverty, to provide the necessary care, food, clothing, medical or dental care, or shelter, which seriously endanger the physical health of the child.

Signs of child neglect

  • Poor hygiene, odor
  • Inappropriately dressed for weather
  • Needs medical or dental care
  • Left alone, unsupervised for long periods
  • Failure to thrive, malnutrition
  • Constant hunger, begs or steals food
  • Extreme willingness to please
  • Frequent absence from school
  • Arrives early and stays late at school or play areas or other people’s homes

How to Report Child Abuse

Contact your county social/human services department, sheriff, local police department, or university police department immediately—by telephone or in person.

Emergency Phone Number: 911

Non-Emergency Phone Numbers
University of Wisconsin–Madison Police Dept. 608-264-COPS or 608-264-2677
Madison Police Department 608-266-4948
Dane County Child Protective Services 608-261-KIDS or 608-261-5437
Wisconsin Telecommunications Relay System (WTRS) To connect to WTRS, dial 7-1-1 from any phone in Wisconsin, or the appropriate WTRS toll-free number found here: elections-voting/voters/accessibility/wtrs

Interpretation Services

If you need language interpretation services to ask questions about your duty to report, request training, or provide an additional campus report, please call the Office of Equity and Diversity at 608-263-2378. Language interpretation services are also available through the UW-Madison Police Dept., the Madison Police Dept., or Dane County Child Protective Services.

What to Report

Explain, as well as you can, what happened or is happening to the child. Describe the nature of the abuse or neglect and the involved parties. Be as specific as possible. Be prepared to give the name, address, and telephone number of the child and also the name of the parent or caretaker if known. Even if you do not know all of this information, report what you do know. Tell all you know about the situation.

  • If there is an emergency or a child is in immediate danger, call 911.
  • Reports must be given immediately by telephone or in person to law enforcement or Child Protective Services (CPS)—no voicemail or email. Child Protective Services will not disclose information about who made a report unless they are court ordered.
  • If you learn about abuse or neglect from an education record of a matriculated student, a medical record, or from a patient in a healthcare setting, various privacy laws may affect your ability to make a report to CPS or law enforcement. If you have questions about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), or state medical records laws, please contact the Office of Administrative Legal Services at 608-263-7400.

Additional Campus Reporting Expectations

If the incident or threat of child abuse or neglect involves an allegation against a University employee or agent (e.g. student, volunteer, etc.) or the suspected child abuse or neglect occurred on the UW-Madison campus or during a UW-Madison sponsored activity—in addition to notifying Child Protective Services or law enforcement—the reporter should also notify one of the following entities:

UW-Madison Police Department
(If not notified previously.)
The Office for Equity and Diversity 608-263-2378

The purpose of such notification is to alleviate an ongoing threat of harm to a child or children. Such reports shall be maintained in a secure location, and the confidentiality of the reporter shall be maintained to the extent permitted by law or University policy.

What Happens After You Report

Child Protective Services and/or law enforcement will screen the case and determine whether abuse/neglect has occurred and determine what action to take.

If you have questions about your duty to report or to request group training, contact Kathryn (Kate) O'Connor at 608-263-2378 or (Language interpretation services are available.) In person training is preferred for those individuals who work with minors on a routine basis.  Those individuals who work with minors on a occasional basis may take the training provided online but should also contact Kate O'Connor for brochures that are specific to UW-Madison guidelines.