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What is a Child Abuse Pediatrician?

Child abuse pediatricians are doctors with special training, experience and skills in evaluating children who may be victims of abuse or neglect.

As part of every evaluation, child abuse pediatricians actively search for medical problems or other explanations for a child's symptoms. It is not uncommon for these subspecialists to rule out abuse as a cause of a patient's findings.

What kind of training do child abuse pediatricians have?

  • Graduation from college and medical school

  • Three or four years of residency training in the medical care of children

  • Three years of fellowship training in child abuse pediatrics or equivalent

  • Certification by the American Board of Pediatrics Other kinds of health providers, such as general pediatricians, family medicine or emergency physicians and nurse practitioners, may also have significant experience and expertise in child abuse pediatrics.

Because of their special training and skills, child abuse pediatricians are the doctors most able to help determine if and how a child was abused.

Types of services provided by a child abuse pediatrician

Child abuse pediatricians gather medical history from parents and families, talk to children, examine children, review blood tests, x-rays and other studies, and may order and review additional tests. Child abuse pediatricians often work within a multidisciplinary team that includes other healthcare providers, hospital staff, child protective service agency workers and law enforcement personnel to gather information and make sure that all agencies involved understand the medical concerns related to a child.

In addition, child abuse pediatricians carefully review information about the child and why the concern for abuse exists. An evaluation may include speaking to many professionals involved in the care and protection of your child, such as your child's primary care doctor, subspecialty physician, therapist, child protective service worker and/or police officer.

Child abuse pediatricians evaluate many cases each year, and often, the diagnosis is not abuse. Child abuse pediatricians often testify in court to help a judge and jury understand a child's medical concerns and injuries (or lack of) and what they mean. They also have significant training and expertise on the effects of trauma and on the benefits of trauma informed care. They are able to help families with resources and supports to manage and navigate traumatic events.

When does a child abuse pediatrician get involved in a child's care?

Child abuse pediatricians are contacted by medical staff or investigative agencies when a child is a suspected victim of abuse. Child abuse pediatricians may also be asked for help by parents or a child's primary care doctor. Not all hospitals and communities have a child abuse pediatrician locally.

In certain cases, a child abuse pediatrician may evaluate a child's records to provide an expert opinion if asked by a court, police, child protective services worker or lawyer. These requests may occur well after a child's injury.

Where can I find a child abuse pediatrician?

A child and parents may meet a child abuse pediatrician in the hospital or in a child advocacy center (a community agency designed to evaluate child victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect or other violence).

Important things to know:

  • Child abuse pediatricians do not decide who has custody of a child or which home the child lives in.

  • Child abuse pediatricians do not arrest people or determine who is "guilty."

  • Child abuse pediatricians do not decide who is a good or better parent.

Remember, child abuse pediatricians are partners in making sure your child is safe and healthy.

More information

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Child Abuse and Neglect (Copyright ©2021)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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