Child Abuse Hotline

(800) 632 - 4615

If a child is in immediate danger, please call 911

24 Parental Stress Hotline

1(888) 220 - 7575

Who Are We?

The San Mateo County Child Abuse Prevention Council (CAPC) is an independent collaborative mandated by the California State Welfare and Institutions Code 18967. CAPC functions as an advisory, advocacy and education board.

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Parenting a Child who has Experienced Traumatic Events.

Children who have experienced traumatic events need to feel safe and loved. All parents want to provide this kind of nurturing home for their children. However, when parents do not have an understanding of the effects of trauma, they may misinterpret their child's behavior and end up feeling frustrated or resentful. Their attempts to address troubling behavior may be ineffective or, in some cases, even harmful. This factsheet discusses the nature of trauma, its effects on children and youth, and ways to help your child. By increasing your understanding of trauma, you can help support your child's healing, your relationship with him or her, and your family as a whole.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to an intense event that threatens or causes harm. The harm can be physical or emotional, real or perceived, and it can threaten the child or someone close to him or her. Trauma can be the result of a single event, or it can result from exposure to multiple events over time.

  • Potentially traumatic events may include:
  • Abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional)
  • Neglect
  • Effects of poverty (such as homelessness or not having enough to eat)
  • Being separated from loved ones
  • Bullying witnessing harm to a loved one or pet (e.g., domestic or community violence)
  • Natural disasters or accidents
  • Unpredictable parental behavior due to addiction or mental illness
Who is a child?

Under the law, a child is a person under the age of 18 years.

What is child abuse?

The Penal Code defines child abuse as "A physical injury, which is inflicted by other than accidental means on a child by another person." It also includes emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.

What is not child abuse?

Child abuse does not include a mutual affray between minors, reasonable and necessary force used by a peace officer under specific circumstance or spanking that is reasonable and age appropriate and does not expose the child to risk or serious injury.

Who am I to say what is abusive?

People may feel they have no right to pass judgment on other people. However, if knowledge or a reasonable suspicion exists, the protection of the child and compliance with the law must take precedence over these concerns. This protective action could be beneficial to parents, who might not recognize their behavior as abusive or be reluctant to seek help. If this discipline is excessive and forceful enough to leave injuries, physical abuse has occurred. The use of instruments increases the likelihood of injuries, as does the excessive punishment of young children. Some parents hit their children in places where injuries are not visible (the buttocks, the thighs, the back) using belts, whips or other potentially dangerous intruments. If a mandated reporter has knowledge or a reasonable suspicion of abuse, even with no visible signs, a report is required.