Under Governor’s Executive Order #54 (EO 54), all UW employees are mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect and have an obligation to report directly to the authorities. At UW, this mandate includes volunteers and contractors working on behalf of the university.

As an employee, volunteer, or contractor, it is critical that you understand your obligation to report, what to report, and how to report. The information on this page is only an overview.

Report Child Abuse and Neglect

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Why must I report?

In accordance with Wisconsin Executive Order #54, or EO 54, all UW employees 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 and contractors working for UW institution’s sponsored programs or activities are also expected to report suspected abuse or neglect.

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 or 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 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.

What do I report?

Definition of a Child

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

Definition: Physical injury inflicted on a child by other than accidental means. Physical injury includes, but 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 (e.g., a belt or 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

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 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

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 endangers the physical health of the child.

Signs of 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

Threatened abuse or neglect refers to behaviors or conditions a child is exposed to that are dangerous to the child and likely to result in abuse or neglect.

Signs of threatened abuse or neglect

Identify behaviors or conditions that are dangerous or becoming dangerous to a child. Consider the possibility of threatened abuse or neglect when you observe or become aware of the following:

  • Minor injuries that are cause for concern, including bruising on a non-mobile child; bruising or scrapes to vulnerable parts of a child’s body; or an escalating pattern of corporal punishment that increases in severity or frequency.
  • Exposure to violence, even if a child has not yet been injured, when there is domestic violence or a violent person in the home.
  • Exposure to dangerous people or situations, including previous abusers or criminal activity.
  • An impaired caregiver, when there is no one else in the home to provide necessary care or protection.

Definition: The criminal manufacture of methamphetamine is defined as child abuse when it is done under any of the following circumstances:

  • A child is present.
  • It is manufactured in a child’s home, on the premises of a child’s home, or in a motor vehicle on the premises of a child’s home.
  • It is manufactured under any other circumstances where a reasonable person should have known that the manufacture would be seen, smelled, or heard by a child.

Signs of exposure to methamphetamine manufacture

Consider the possibility of meth manufacture in a child’s environment when you see or become aware of the following in a child, particularly in combination:

  • painful or burning eyes or eye irritation
  • skin irritation and redness or burns
  • sneezing and chronic coughing, congestion, or fever
  • chest pain, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath
  • vomiting, diarrhea, or nausea
  • headaches
  • rapid heart rate
  • jaundice or dark-colored urine
  • extreme irritability

How do I report?

If there is an emergency or a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

Any local Child Protective Services(CPS) agency can take your report. If the abuse is happening now or is violent in nature, call 911.

You do not need to be an expert in the definitions of abuse and neglect. It is the responsibility of Child Protective Services (CPS), law enforcement and court systems. You just need to understand the signs of possible abuse and neglect so you are prepared to recognize situations that may need to be reported.

In addition to notifying Child Protective Services or law enforcement, the reporter must also make an internal report to campus if either of the following apply:

  • The incident or threat of child abuse or neglect involves an allegation against a university employee or an agent of the university (e.g. a student or volunteer).
  • The incident or threat of child abuse or neglect occurred on campus or during a campus sponsored activity.



You may ask questions about your duty to report child abuse or neglect in order to determine if a report is necessary. However, do not delay making a report in order to wait for answers. If you are unsure about making a report, please contact either your campus police department or local Child Protective Services.

If you have general questions about Mandatory Reporting training, other reporting obligations, or your responsibilities as a UW employee or volunteer, contact:

Office of Compliance and Integrity


Additional Resources