Washington Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect

Physical Abuse - Citation: Rev. Code §§ 26.44.020; 26.44.030; 9A.16.100
'Abuse or neglect' means the injury of a child by any person under circumstances that cause harm to the child's health, welfare, or safety, or the negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for or providing care to the child. An abused child is a child who has been subjected to child abuse or neglect.

'Severe abuse' means any of the following:

  • Any single act of abuse that causes physical trauma of sufficient severity that, if left untreated, could cause death
  • Any single act of sexual abuse that causes significant bleeding, deep bruising, or significant external or internal swelling
  • More than one act of physical abuse, each of which causes bleeding, deep bruising, significant external or internal swelling, bone fracture, or unconsciousness

Any use of force on a child by any other person is unlawful unless it is reasonable and moderate and is authorized in advance by the child's parent or guardian for purposes of restraining or correcting the child. The following actions are presumed unreasonable when used to correct or restrain a child:

  • Throwing, kicking, burning, or cutting a child
  • Striking a child with a closed fist
  • Shaking a child younger than age 3
  • Interfering with a child's breathing
  • Threatening a child with a deadly weapon
  • Doing any other act that is likely to cause and that does cause bodily harm greater than transient pain or minor temporary marks

The age, size, and condition of the child and the location of the injury shall be considered when determining whether the bodily harm is reasonable or moderate. This list is illustrative of unreasonable actions and is not intended to be exclusive.

Neglect - Citation: Rev. Code §§ 26.44.020; 9A.42.100
Negligent treatment or maltreatment' means an act or a failure to act, or the cumulative effects of a pattern of conduct, behavior, or inaction, that evidences a serious disregard of consequences of such magnitude as to constitute a clear and present danger to a child's health, welfare, or safety, including but not limited to conduct prohibited under § 9A.42.100 [endangerment with a controlled substance]. When considering whether a clear and present danger exists, evidence of a parent's substance abuse as a contributing factor to negligent treatment or maltreatment shall be given great weight.

It is 'endangerment with a controlled substance' if the person knowingly or intentionally permits a dependent child to be exposed to, ingest, inhale, or have contact with methamphetamine or ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or anhydrous ammonia, including their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers, that are being used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, including its salts, isomers, and salts of isomers.

Sexual Abuse/Exploitation - Citation: Rev. Code § 26.44.020
The term 'abuse or neglect' includes the sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child by any person under circumstances that indicate that the child's health, welfare, and safety are harmed.

'Sexual exploitation' includes:

  • Allowing, permitting, or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution by any person
  • Allowing, permitting, encouraging, or engaging in the obscene or pornographic photographing, filming, or depicting of a child by any person

Emotional Abuse
This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Standards for Reporting - Citation: Rev. Code § 26.44.030
A report is required when there is reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered abuse or neglect.

Persons Responsible for the Child - Citation: Rev. Code § 26.44.020
Any person can be a responsible person.

Exceptions - Citation: Rev. Code §§ 26.44.015; 26.44.020; 9A.16.100
This chapter shall not be construed to authorize interference with child-raising practices, including reasonable parental discipline, that are not injurious to a child's health, welfare, and safety.

Nothing in this chapter may be used to prohibit the reasonable use of corporal punishment as a means of discipline.

No parent or guardian may be deemed abusive or neglectful solely by reason of the parent's or child's blindness, deafness, developmental disability, or other handicap.

The fact that siblings share a bedroom is not, in and of itself, negligent treatment or maltreatment. Poverty, homelessness, or exposure to domestic violence that is perpetrated against someone other than the child does not constitute negligent treatment or maltreatment in and of itself.

A person who is being furnished Christian Science treatment by a duly accredited Christian Science practitioner will not be considered, for that reason alone, a neglected person.

The physical discipline of a child is not unlawful when it is reasonable and moderate and is inflicted by a parent, teacher, or guardian for purposes of restraining or correcting the child.