State Legal Definitions of Child Abuse
Below are some general or common statements and definitions included
in states laws concerning child abuse. After these definitions follows
links to each states specific laws. If you desire to see the actual law, go
to the US links page and click on the "laws" links.
Physical Abuse is commonly defined as "any nonaccidental physical
injury to the child" which can include striking, burning, kicking, or biting
the child, or any action resulting in a physical impairment of the child.
These states include a substantial risk of harm to the child's health or
welfare: AL, AK, AR, CA, CO, FL, HI, IL, IN, KY, LA, ME, MD, MS, MI,
MN, NT, NA, NJ, NM, MY, NC, OH, OR, PA, RI, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA,
WV, WI, WY.
Neglect - frequently described in terms of deprivation of sufficient food
clothing, shelter, medial care, or supervision. Failure to educate the child
as required by law are included in the following state statutes: AK, CO,
CT, DE, ID, IA, KY, MN, MO, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, ND, OH, SC, SD,
WV,WY. Seven states (MS, ND, OH, TN, TX, WV) add that medical
neglect is when someone fails to provide an special medical treatment or
mental health care needed by the child. Four other states (IA, KS, MN,
MT) define medical neglect as the withholding of medical treatment or
nutrition from disabled infants with life threatening conditions.
Sexual abuse/Exploitation - All states include sexual abuse in their
definitions of child abuse. Some states refer to sexual abuse in general
terms, others with specific acts. 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 porn.
Neglect - is frequently described in terms of deprivation of sufficient food, clothing, shelter,
medical care, or supervision. The following states include failure to educate the child as
required by law in their definitions of neglect: AK, CO, CT, DE, ID, IA, KY, MN, MO, MT, NV,
NH, NJ, NY, ND, OH, SC, SD, WV, WY. These states add to that medical neglect as failing
to provide any special medical treatment or mental health care needed by the child: MS, ND,
OH, OK, TN, TX, WY. These four states define as medical neglect the withholding of
medical treatment or nutrition from disabled infants with life threatening conditions: IA, KS,
Emotional Abuse - all states except GA and WA include emotional maltreatment as part of
their definitions of abuse or neglect. The following twenty-two states and DC have specific
definitions of emotional abuse or mental injury to a child: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, DC, FL, ID,
KY, ME, MD, MN, MT, NV, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VT, WI, WY.
Abandonment - These locations include abandonment in their definitions of neglect: CO,
CT, DC, FL, IL, KY, LA, MN, NV, NC, OK, RI, SD, TX, VT, VA, WV, WY. These states
provide separate definitions for establishing abandonment: AZ. AK, ID, IN, KS, ME, MT, NH,
NM, NY, ND, OH, SC.
In general, it is considered abandonment of the child when the parent's identity or location is
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.
Parental Substance Abuse - is an element of the definition of child abuse or neglect in
some states. Circumstances that are considered abuse in some states include:
- prenatal exposure of a child to harm due to the mother's use of an illegal drug or other
substance. (AK, CO, DC, IL, IA, LA, MS, MN, ND, SD, WI)
- manufacture of a controlled substance in the presence of a child or on the premises
occupied by a child. (CO, IA, IN, MT, OH, OR, SD, TN, VA, WA)
- allowing a child to be present where chemicals or equipment for the manufacture of
controlled substances are used or stored. (AZ, NM, WA)
- selling, distributing, or giving drugs or alcohol to a child. (AK, FL, HI, IL, MN, OH, TX)
- use of a controlled substance by a caregiver that impairs the caregiver's ability to
adequately care for the child. (KY, NY, RI, TX)