Current Definitions in Federal Law:
Federal legislation provides a foundation for States by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. §5106g), as amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003; defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum:
Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
This definition of child abuse and neglect refers specifically to parents or other caregivers. A “child” under this definition generally means a person who is under the age of 18 or who is not an emancipated minor.
While CAPTA provides definitions for sexual abuse and the special cases related to withholding or failing to provide medically indicated treatment, it does not provide specific definitions for other types of maltreatment such as physical abuse, neglect, or emotional abuse. While Federal legislation sets minimum standards, each state is responsible for providing its own definition within civil and criminal contexts.
Child abuse is harm to, or neglect of, a child by another person, whether adult or child. Abuse can happen in any family, regardless of any special characteristics such as cultural, ethnic, or income. Child abuse can be physical, emotional – verbal, sexual or through neglect. Abuse may cause serious injury to the child and may even result in death.
I have examined the laws in all fifty states and in general they use the basic definition of the Federal Law. They then have an assortment of guidelines defining specifics. They vary from state to state and unfortunately county to county as well as the state guidelines are just that…guidelines.
I have also noticed that neither the Federal law nor state laws address whether a person acts intentionally, knowingly or willingly as opposed to accidental. The definitions of “abuse and neglect” have become so broadly defined that almost anybody could have such a charge made against them.
You may find current state laws by going to the URL below…they also address 38 other subjects as it relates to child welfare.
One of our current problem is due to the lack of uniformity of laws/guidelines defining what child abuse/neglect is. I feel they should be uniform. What is abuse/neglect in one county or state should be the exact same in another. This is one subject where one size should fit all.
Below, after consulting with many people and completing my own extensive research, I have written what I feel could be the law across the country if the US Congress would pass such legislation applicable across the country. I also address a few other issues that may relate to the topic.
Physical abuse, which is 18% of all substantiated cases of child abuse, is the most visible form of abuse.
It should be defined as: An intentional or knowingly or willful physical act by any adult of a child which results in a non-accidental trauma, serious physical injury or death of the child. It may also apply to any adult who witnesses these acts and intentionally or knowingly or willfully and fails to protect the child.
Inflicted physical injury most often represents unreasonable, severe corporal punishment or unjustifiable punishment. Such injuries can be caused by: striking, shaking throwing,
punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning or otherwise harming a child.
This also includes but is not limited to: unnecessary, illegal, or excessive prenatal drug
While any of these injuries can occur accidentally when a child is at play, physical abuse should be suspected if the explanations do not fit the injury or if a pattern of frequency is apparent. Physical abuse thus could also be unexplained or repeated injuries such as welts, bruises, or burns; injuries that are in the shape of an object (belt buckle, electric cord, etc.); injuries not likely to happen given the age or ability of the child (IE: broken bones in a child too young to walk or climb); unreasonable explanation of the injury.
See below on how these allegations should be handled
It is very difficult for most people to talk about sexual abuse and even more difficult for society as a whole to acknowledge that the sexual abuse of children of all ages — including infants — happens everyday in the United States. Sexual abuse; is 10% of all substantiated cases of child abuse.
It is should be defined as: Any involvement with a child by an adult in sexual activity to provide sexual gratification or financial benefit to the perpetrator, including contacts for sexual purposes: molestation, statutory rape, prostitution, pornography, exposure, incest, exhibition, fondling, sexual intercourse, oral copulation or other sexually exploitative activities. It may also apply to any adult who witnesses such acts and intentionally or knowingly or willfully fails to protect the child.
Examples of such possible actions covered:
Non touching sexual abuse offenses include:
» Indecent exposure/exhibitionism
» Exposing children to pornographic material
» Deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse
» Masturbation in front of a child
Touching sexual offenses include:
» Making a child touch an adult’s sexual organs or oral copulation
» Any penetration of a child’s vagina or anus by an object that doesn’t have a medical purpose
Sexual exploitation offenses include:
» Engaging a child for the purposes of prostitution
» Using a child to film, photograph or model pornography
Note that the words intentional, willingly and knowingly is NOT included in the definition for sexual abuse. Any person who would engage in such activity with a child would automatically be doing so intentionally, knowingly and willfully.
See below on how these allegations should be handled
Emotional abuse is 7% of all substantiated cases of child abuse. This is the most controversial area of childe abuse. Many feel including this type of abuse is telling parents how they should parent their child. However, statistics tells us that this type of abuse can destroy a child for a lifetime. The Federal government does include this in their definition of abuse; they however do not spell out what it may include, thus allowing CPS to define as they wish and usually in very broad terms.
It should be defined as: The systematic, intentional or knowingly or willful tearing down of a child by an adult over an extended period of time through rejection, humiliation, terrorization, ignoring, isolating, or corrupting. It may also apply to any adult who witnesses such acts and intentionally or knowingly or willfully fails to protect the child.
It is considered a pattern of behavior that can seriously interfere with a child’s positive development. Emotional abuse is probably the least understood of all child abuse, yet it is the most prevalent, and can be the cruelest and most destructive of most types of abuse.
Because emotional abuse attacks the child’s psyche and self-concept, the victim comes to
see him or herself as unworthy of love and affection. Children who are constantly shamed, humiliated, terrorized or rejected suffer at least as much, if not more, than if they had been physically assaulted.
An infant who is being severely deprived of basic emotional nurturing, even though physically well cared for, can fail to thrive and can eventually die.
Types of Emotional Abuse:
Rejecting — Telling a child in a variety of ways that he or she is unwanted. They may tell the child to leave, call him or her names and tell the child he or she is worthless. They may not talk to or hold the young child as he or she grows. The child may become the family scapegoat, being blamed for all the family’s problems.
Ignoring — They may not show attachment to the child or provide nurturance. They may show no interest in the child, express affection or even recognize the child’s presence. Many times the parent is physically there but emotionally unavailable.
Terrorizing — Parents may single out one child to criticize and punish. They may ridicule him or her for displaying normal emotions and have expectations far beyond his or her normal abilities. The child may be threatened with death, mutilation or abandonment.
Isolating — A parent who abuses a child through isolation may not allow the child to engage in appropriate activities with his or her peers; may keep a baby in his or her room, not exposed to stimulation; or may prevent teenagers from participating in extracurricular activities. Parents may require the child to stay in his or her room from the time school lets out until the next morning, or restrict eating to isolation or seclusion.
Corrupting — Parents permit children to use drugs or alcohol; to watch cruel behavior toward animals; to watch pornographic materials and adult sex acts; or to witness or participate in criminal activities such as stealing, assault, gambling, etc.
See below on how these allegations should be handled
Child neglect, which is 65% of all substantiated cases of child abuse, is the most common form of child abuse currently reported to child protective services.
It should be defined as: The intentional or knowingly or willful failure by an adult over an extended period of time to provide needed age-appropriate care,” such as shelter, food, clothing, education, supervision, medical/dental/therapeutic care and other basic necessities of a child. It may also apply to any adult who witnesses such acts and intentionally or knowingly or willfully fails to protect the child.
The types of neglect:
Physical neglect — accounts for the majority of cases of neglect. The definition includes the failure to provide proper shelter, food or clothing, delay in seeking necessary health care, child abandonment, inadequate supervision, and failing to adequately provide for the child’s safety.
Educational neglect – allowing a child to engage in chronic truancy when the child is of mandatory school age but not enrolled in school or receiving needed special educational training.
Emotional neglect — includes such actions as having the child being exposed to chronic or extreme spousal abuse in the child’s presence, allowing a child to use drugs or alcohol, refusal or failure to provide needed psychological care, constant belittling and withholding of affection.
Medical neglect — is the failure to provide appropriate health care for a child although financially able to do so. In some cases, a parent or caretaker will withhold traditional medical care during the practice of religious beliefs; these cases generally should not fall under the definition of medical neglect.