This information is from the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
All citizens are mandated reporters of child abuse in the states of Nevada, Nebraska, Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and New Jersey. If you report in good faith you are exempt from legal action.
It is a crime to fail to report suspected child abuse. Failure to report can bring:
· Suspension of professional license
· Law suits
· Criminal conviction
Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect
State Statutes Series
Author(s): Child Welfare Information Gateway
Year Published: 2007
Current through April 2007
You may wish to review this introductory text to better understand the information contained in your State’s statute. To see how your State addresses this issue, visit the State Statutes Search.
Child abuse and neglect are defined by Federal and State laws. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is the Federal legislation that provides minimum standards that States must incorporate in their statutory definitions of child abuse and neglect. The CAPTA definition of “child abuse and neglect” refers to:
- “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”1
The CAPTA definition of “sexual abuse” includes:
- “The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or
- The rape, and in cases of caretaker or interfamilial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children”2
Types of Abuse
All States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands provide definitions of child abuse and neglect in statute. As applied to reporting statutes, these definitions determine the grounds for State intervention in the protection of a child’s well-being.3 States recognize the different types of abuse in their definitions, including physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Some States also provide definitions in statute for parental substance abuse and/or for abandonment as child abuse.
Physical abuse is generally defined as “any nonaccidental physical injury to the child” and can include striking, kicking, burning, or biting the child, or any action that results in a physical impairment of the child. In approximately 36 States and American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, the definition of abuse also includes acts or circumstances that threaten the child with harm or create a substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare.4
Neglect is frequently defined in terms of deprivation of adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision. Approximately 21 States and American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands include failure to educate the child as required by law in their definition of neglect.5 Seven States further define medical neglect as failing to provide any special medical treatment or mental health care needed by the child.6 In addition, four States define as medical neglect the withholding of medical treatment or nutrition from disabled infants with life-threatening conditions.7
All States include sexual abuse in their definitions of child abuse. Some States refer in general terms to sexual abuse, while others specify various acts as sexual abuse. Sexual exploitation is an element of the definition of sexual abuse in most jurisdictions. Sexual exploitation includes allowing the child to engage in prostitution or in the production of child pornography.
All States and territories except Georgia and Washington include emotional maltreatment as part of their definitions of abuse or neglect. Approximately 22 States, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico provide specific definitions of emotional abuse or mental injury to a child.8 Typical language used in these definitions is “injury to the psychological capacity or emotional stability of the child as evidenced by an observable or substantial change in behavior, emotional response, or cognition,” or as evidenced by “anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or aggressive behavior.”
Parental Substance Abuse
Parental substance abuse is an element of the definition of child abuse or neglect in some States.9 Circumstances that are considered abuse or neglect in some States include:
- Prenatal exposure of a child to harm due to the mother’s use of an illegal drug or other substance10
- Manufacture of a controlled substance in the presence of a child or on the premises occupied by a child11
- Allowing a child to be present where the chemicals or equipment for the manufacture of controlled substances are used or stored12
- Selling, distributing, or giving drugs or alcohol to a child13
- Use of a controlled substance by a caregiver that impairs the caregiver’s ability to adequately care for the child14
Many States and territories now provide definitions for child abandonment in their reporting laws. Approximately 18 States and the District of Columbia include abandonment in their definition of abuse or neglect.15 Approximately 13 States, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands provide separate definitions for establishing abandonment.16 In general, it is considered abandonment of the child when the parent’s identity or whereabouts are unknown, the child has been left by the parent in circumstances in which the child suffers serious harm, or the parent has failed to maintain contact with the child or to provide reasonable support for a specified period of time.
Standards for Reporting
The standards for what constitutes an abusive act vary among the States. Many States define abuse in terms of harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare. Other standards commonly seen include “acts or omissions,” “recklessly fails or refuses to act,” “willfully causes or permits,” and “failure to provide.” These standards guide mandatory reporters in deciding whether to make a report to child protective services.
Persons Responsible for the Child
In addition to defining acts or omissions that constitute child abuse or neglect, several States’ statutes provide specific definitions of persons who can be reported to child protective services as perpetrators of abuse or neglect. These are persons who have some relationship or regular responsibility for the child. This generally includes parents, guardians, foster parents, relatives, or other caregivers responsible for the child’s welfare.
A number of States provide exceptions in their reporting laws that exempt certain acts or omissions from their statutory definitions of child abuse and neglect. For instance, in 11 States and the District of Columbia, financial inability to provide for a child is exempted from the definition of neglect.17 In 14 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands, physical discipline of a child, as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child, is an exception to the definition of abuse.18
The CAPTA amendments of 1996 added new provisions specifying that nothing in the Act be construed as establishing a Federal requirement that a parent or legal guardian provide any medical service or treatment that is against the religious beliefs of the parent or legal guardian (42 U.S.C. § 5106i). At the State level, civil child abuse reporting laws may provide an exception to the definition of child abuse and neglect for parents who choose not to seek medical care for their children due to religious beliefs. Approximately 30 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam provide for such an exception.19 Three States specifically provide an exception for Christian Science treatment.20 However, 16 of the 30 States and Puerto Rico authorize the court to order medical treatment for the child when the child’s condition warrants intervention.21 Five States require mandated reporters to report instances when a child is not receiving medical care so that an investigation can be made.22
To see how your State addresses this issue, visit the State Statutes Search.
To find information on all of the States and territories, view the complete printable PDF, Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect: Summary of State Laws (PDF – 442 KB).
1 42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g(2) (West Supp. 1998).
2 42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g(4) (West Supp. 1998).
3 The term “child” means a person who has not attained age 18.
4 The States are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. In addition, Arizona, Kansas, New Hampshire, Washington, and the District of Columbia address the issue of risk of harm in their definitions of neglect.
5 The word approximately is used to stress the fact that the States frequently amend their laws. This information is current only through April 2007. The States that define “failure to educate” as neglect include Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
6 Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.
7 Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, and Montana. back
8 Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
9 For a more complete discussion of this issue, see Child Welfare Information Gateway’s Parental Drug Use as Child Abuse.
10 Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
11 Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington. 12 Arizona, New Mexico, and Washington.
13 Arkansas, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, and Texas.
14 Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas.
15 Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
16 Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Carolina.
17 Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
18 Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington.
19 Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.
20 Arizona, Connecticut, and Washington.
21 Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania.
22 Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma.
This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway.
State Statutes Results
Child Abuse and Neglect
Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect
To better understand this issue and to view it across States, see the Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect: Summary of State Laws (PDF – 442 KB) publication.
Citation: Ann. Code § 31-34-1-2
A child is a child in need of services if, before the child becomes age 18, the child’s physical or mental health is seriously endangered due to injury by the act or omission of the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian.
Evidence that the illegal manufacture of a drug or controlled substance is occurring on property where a child resides creates a rebuttable presumption that the child’s physical or mental health is seriously endangered.
Citation: Ann. Code §§ 31-34-1-1; 31-34-1-9; 31-34-1-10 ; 31-34-1-11
A child is a child in need of services if, before the child becomes age 18:
- The child’s physical or mental condition is seriously impaired or seriously endangered as a result of the inability, refusal, or neglect of the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, or supervision.
- The child is born with fetal alcohol syndrome, or any amount, including a trace amount, of a controlled substance or a legend drug in the child’s body.
- The child has an injury, abnormal physical or psychological development, or is at a substantial risk of a life threatening condition that arises or is substantially aggravated because the child’s mother used alcohol, a controlled substance, or a legend drug during pregnancy.
A child in need of services includes a child with a disability who is deprived of nutrition that is necessary to sustain life or is deprived of medical or surgical intervention that is necessary to remedy or ameliorate a life threatening medical condition, if the nutrition, medical, or surgical intervention is generally provided to similarly situated children with or without disabilities.
Citation: Ann. Code §§ 31-34-1-3; 31-34-1-4; 31-34-1-5
A child is a child in need of services if, before the child becomes age 18, the child is the victim, lives in the same household as another child who was the victim, or lives in the same household as the adult who was convicted of a sex offense as defined in the criminal statutes pertaining to:
- Criminal deviate conduct
- Child molesting
- Child exploitation or possession of child pornography
- Child seduction
- Sexual misconduct with a minor
- Indecent exposure
A child is a child in need of services if, before the child becomes age 18, the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian allows the child:
- To participate in an obscene performance
- To commit a sex offense prohibited by criminal statute
Citation: Ann. Code § 31-34-1-2
A child is a child in need of services if the child’s mental health is seriously endangered by the act or omission of the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian.
Citation: Ann. Code § 31-9-2-0.5
Abandoned infant means:
- A child who is less than 12 months old and whose parent, guardian, or custodian has knowingly or intentionally left the child in an environment that endangers the child’s life or heath or in a hospital or medical facility and has no reasonable plan to assume the care, custody, and control of the child
- A child who is, or appears to be, not more than 45 days old and whose parent has knowingly and intentionally left the child with an emergency medical services provider and did not express an intent to return for the child
Standards for Reporting
Citation: Ann. Code §§ 31-34-1-1; 31-34-1-2
A report is required when the parent’s:
- Inability or refusal to provide care for the child results in harm
- Act or omission results in harm
Persons Responsible for the Child
Citation: Ann. Code §§ 31-9-2-0.5; 31-34-1-1 through 31-34-1-5
Responsible persons include the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian.
Citation: Ann. Code §§ 31-34-1-12; 31-34-1-14; 31-34-1-15
A child is not a child in need of services if:
- The presence of a controlled substance was from a valid medical prescription.
- A parent fails to provide specific medical treatment for a child because of legitimate and genuine religious beliefs. This presumption does not do any of the following:
- Prevent a court from ordering medical services when the health of the child requires it
- Apply to situations in which the child’s life or health is in serious danger
This chapter does not limit:
- The right of the parent to use reasonable corporal punishment to discipline the child
The lawful practice or teaching religious beliefs