ASWB Practice Question: Child Abuse and Neglect Answer and Rationale

By Heidi Tobe on July 10, 2018

Child abuse and neglect are topics that we can say with just about absolute certainty will show up on your ASWB social work licensing exams (whether you are preparing for the LMSW or LCSW exam). That's why  this week's FREE ASWB practice question covered this very nuanced and challenging topic. This question has proven to be a difficult one for many-did you get it right? Find out below!

Child Abuse Practice Question:

teenager crying therapy

A school social worker meets with a 13-year-old girl who begins crying in session as she discusses an argument she had with her parents last night. She explains that after she talked back to her mom, her dad hit her. She goes on to say that “it hurt really badly.” What should the social worker do FIRST?

A. File a CPS report

B. Determine the type and severity of the punishment

C. Develop a safety plan

D. Contact the client’s parents

The correct answer is B.

  • The question stem raises some red flags for abuse. The client says 1. that her dad hit her and 2. that it "hurt really badly." While many people jump to filing a CPS report (A), we actually don't have enough to do so yet.
  • While investigating is not our job, determining the type and severity of the punishment (B) is NOT the same thing as investigating. Investigating involves interviewing the child, parents, etc. to establish whether or not an accusation of abuse or neglect can be substantiated or not. Again, inquiring about the type or severity of punishment a child receives is NOT the same as investigating whether or not abuse has occurred. What we are doing with answer option B is gathering information to determine whether a report needs to be made or not. "It hurt really badly" may or may not warrant a report. We need to find out what happened that "hurt really badly." If the client's dad spanked her with an open hand and it didn't leave a mark, it is not considered abuse-even if it hurt really badly. If we find out her dad hit her and it 1. left a mark, 2. was with a closed hand/fist, OR 3. used any type of object, then we would need to do A and file a CPS report. 

  • Developing a safety plan (C) is not where we would start. We need to prioritize determining what type of punishment occurred to figure out whether a CPS report needs to be made.
  • We would not start by contacting the client's parents (D). This could occur after doing B, depending on what type of punishment took place. If we identify that abuse took place, we would do A before doing D.

Exam Preparation

Which answer did you choose? Does the rationale fit with your understanding of child abuse and neglect reporting, or did you learn something new today? If you have any additional questions, you can always check in with a TDC coach. We are here to support you as you prepare to PASS your licensing exams! If you came up with the right answer-great job! You are on the right track to PASSING your exam!

Still haven’t signed up for an exam preparation program? Our structured, straightforward approach will provide you with exactly what you need to successfully answer questions like these-and many more-correctly and with confidence.


Commenter Name
July 10, 2018

That was my first answer....but I changed it! : (

Commenter Name
September 12, 2018

My answer was A, to file a CPS report first. I just took the TDC pretest so my reasoning was based off that. Why do you need more information about the incident before reporting in this case but not other cases? Thank you!

Commenter Name
September 12, 2018

Her dad hitting her and her stating it "hurt really badly" does not give us enough information yet. It may or may not warrant a report. We need to find out what happened that “hurt really badly.” If the client’s dad spanked her with an open hand and it didn’t leave a mark, this is not abuse and does not require a report. If we find out that her dad hitting her either left a mark or was done with an object (or closed fist) then we would need to go ahead and file a CPS report. If you have any additional questions you are welcome to email me at

Commenter Name
October 7, 2018

Heidi, is it safe to assume that whenever we see something in quotes like "it hurt really badly" to always seek more information. This is kind of similar to question 5 on the practice test...


Commenter Name
October 8, 2018

Yes-when vague statements are made we want to clarify.

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