Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect

Federal guidelines to states define child abuse via The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) as;

  1. Any recent act of failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation
  2. An act of failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

CAPTA provides definitions for sexual abuse and certain cases of neglect when related to withholding or failing to provide medical treatment, however it doesn't provide specific definitions for other types of maltreatment such as physical abuse, neglect, or emotional abuse. While our Federal government sets minimum standards for States that accept CAPTA funding, each State provides its own definitions of maltreatment within civil and criminal statutes. This makes accurate statistics a challenge for what may be considered child abuse in one state, is not in another. I found this information buried within the Department of Health and Human Services - Child Welfare Gateway.

State definitions of child abuse and neglect