Child Abuse and Neglect Definitions

Official definitions of child abuse and neglect.

Abused Child

Under New York State Social Services Law (Section 412), an abused child is a child less than 18 years of age whose parent or another person legally responsible for his or her care:

  • Inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon such child physical injury by other than accidental means, and such action causes or creates a substantial risk of death or serious or protracted disfigurement, impairment of physical or emotional health, or impairment of the function of any bodily organ
  • Creates or allows to be created a substantial risk of physical injury to such a child by other than accidental means, and which would be likely to cause death or serious or protracted disfigurement, or protracted impairment of physical or emotional health, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ
  • Commits a sexual offense or allows, permits or encourages such child to engage in any sex offense, as defined in Section 130 of the Penal Law such as sexual misconduct, rape, criminal sexual act, forcible touching, persistent sexual abuse, sexual abuse, aggravated sexual abuse, female genital mutilation or facilitating a sex offense with a controlled substance
  • Commits any of the acts described in section 255.25 of the Penal Law (such as incest)
  • Allows such child to engage in acts or conduct described in Article 263 of the Penal Law such as use of child in a sexual performance, promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child, possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child, promoting a sexual performance by a child or possessing a sexual performance by a child

An abused child can include a child residing in a group residential care facility, such as one under the jurisdiction of the Department of Social Services, Division for Youth, Office of Mental Health, Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities or State Education Department (Section 412.8 of the Social Services Law).

An abused child can include a child with a handicapping condition who is older than 18 years of age, and placed in one of the following facilities (Section 412.1c):

  • The New York State School for the Blind
  • The New York State School for the Deaf
  • A private residential school that has been approved by the commissioner of education for special services or programs
  • A special act school district
  • A state-supported institution for the instruction of the deaf or blind that has a residential component

Maltreated Child

Under New York State Social Services Law (Section 412), a maltreated child is a child under 18 who has either been defined a neglected child by the Family Court Act, or who has had serious physical injury inflicted upon him or her by other than accidental means. The terms maltreatment and neglect are often used interchangeably.

A maltreated child can include a child with a handicapping condition who is older than 18 years of age, who is defined as a neglected child in residential care, and who is residing in one of the following (Section 412.1c):

  • The New York State School for the Blind
  • The New York State School for the Deaf
  • A private residential school that has been approved by the commissioner of education for special services or programs
  • A special act school district
  • A state-supported institution for the instruction of the deaf or blind that has a residential component

Neglected Child

Under Section 1012(f) of the Family Court Act, a neglected or maltreated child is a child under 18 who has been abandoned by his or her parents or other person legally responsible for the child’s care, or whose physical, mental or emotional condition has been impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired as a result of the failure of his or her parent or other person legally responsible for his or her care to exercise a minimum degree of care:

  • In supplying the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter or education in accordance with provisions of part one of article 65 of the education law, or medical, dental, optometric or surgical care, though financially able to do so or offered financial or other reasonable means to do so
  • In providing the child with proper supervision or guardianship, by unreasonably inflicting or allowing to be inflicted harm, or a substantial risk thereof, including the infliction of excessive corporal punishment; or by misusing a drug or drugs; or by misusing alcoholic beverages to the extent that he or she loses self-control of his or her actions; or by any other acts of similarly serious nature requiring the aid of the courts. In these cases, there is a causal connection between the child’s condition and the subject’s failure to exercise a minimum degree of care, or the parent has abandoned the child by demonstrating an intent to forego his or her parental rights and obligations by failing to visit the child or communicate with the child though able to do so

In New York, reasonable physical correction of a child is allowed. Excessive corporal punishment is not. Excessive is a case-by-case determination based on the form of the punishment, its ability to cause serious injury, the purpose of the punishment and what the child did to warrant such punishment. Clarifying questions should be asked. Does the child (based on age, maturity, physical/mental condition) lack the capacity to understand the corrective quality of the discipline? Is a less severe method of punishment available and likely to be effective? Is the punishment unnecessarily degrading the child? Was the punishment inflicted for gratification of the parent’s rage? Was the punishment brutal? Did the punishment last for such a time that it surpassed a child’s power of endurance? Did the punishment leave bruises/lacerations?


Emotional Neglect

Children whose mental or emotional conditions have been impaired due to emotional neglect is defined by the Family Court Act (Section 1012h):

  • Impairment of emotional health and impairment of mental or emotional condition includes a state of substantially diminished psychological or intellectual functioning in relation to, but not limited to, such factors as failure to thrive, control of aggression or self-destructive impulses, ability to think and reason or acting out and misbehavior, including incorrigibility, inability to govern or habitual truancy; provided, however, that such impairment must be clearly attributable to the unwillingness or inability of the respondent (e.g., parent or person legally responsible for the child) to exercise a minimum degree of care toward the child

Neglected Child in Residential Care

Section 412.9 of the New York State Social Services Law includes a separate definition of neglected children in residential care, for children residing in group residential facilities listed above. Section 412.6 defines a custodian as a director, operator, employee or volunteer of a residential care facility or program. A neglected child in residential care means a child whose custodian impairs, or places in imminent danger of becoming impaired, the child’s physical, mental or emotional condition:

  • By intentionally administering to the child any prescription drug other than in accordance with a physician’s or physician’s assistant’s prescription
  • By failing to adhere to standards for the provision of food, clothing, shelter, education, medical, dental, optometric or surgical care, or for the use of isolation or restraint in accordance with the regulations of the state agency operating, certifying or supervising such facility or program, which shall be consistent with the child’s age, condition, service and treatment needs
  • By failing to adhere to standards for the supervision of children by inflicting or allowing to be inflicted physical harm, or a substantial risk thereof, in accordance with the regulations of the state agency operating, certifying or supervision such facility or program, which shall be consistent with the child’s age, condition, service and treatment needs
  • By failing to conform to applicable state regulations for appropriate custodial conduct

Person Legally Responsible

According to Section 1012(g) of the Family Court Act, a person legally responsible includes the child’s custodian, guardian or any other person responsible for the child’s care at the relevant time. Custodian may include any person continually or at regular intervals found in the same household as the child when the conduct of such persons causes or contributes to the abuse or neglect of the child. It is important to note that abuse or maltreatment can result from the acts of the parent or the person legally responsible.

Adapted from: Identifying and Reporting Child Abuse and Maltreatment/Neglect: Mandated Reporter Trainer’s Resource Guide. New York State Office of Children and Family Services: CDHS/Research Foundation of SUNY/BSC (2009).
 
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