Child abuse and neglect are defined by both Federal and State
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is the
Federal legislation that provides minimum standards for the
definition of child abuse and neglect that States must incorporate
in their statutory definitions (CWIG, 2010).
Under CAPTA, child abuse and neglect means, at a minimum:
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
The term 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.
New York State Legal Definitions
While the Federal CAPTA law provides for the minimum standards
needed for State laws, it is important to know the specific
legal definitions in the States in which you practice, in
particular, it is important to know how New York State laws
define who is a child, what is considered to be abuse, maltreatment
and neglect and who is the subject of the report of abuse.
Indeed, the law that mandates certain professionals in New
York State to take this coursework that you are now reading,
requires that you receive this training regarding the specific
laws in New York State.
Review cases 1-7. Would you consider all the children in
the theses cases to be defined by NYS as a child? What about
15 year old Tim who lives in a residential treatment facility?
Social Services Law of New York State define the following:
A child is an unemancipated person who is under eighteen
years of age.
In New York State a child is also defined as a child residing
in a group residential care facility under the jurisdiction
of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services
(OCFS), Division for Youth (DFY), Office of Mental Health
(OMH), Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities
(OMRDD), or the State Education Department (SED).
A child with a handicapping condition who is 18 years or
older (up to age 21) who is defined as an abused child in
residential care and who is in residential care in one of
the following facilities:
- New York State School for the Blind (Batavia, NY);
- New York State School for the Deaf (Rome, NY);
- A private residential school which has been designed
for special education;
- A special act school district; or
- A state supported school for the deaf or blind which
has a residential component.
Based on the definition above, all of the children involved
in cases 1-6 are defined as a "child", even Tim, who is 15
years old and resides in a residential treatment facility
under the jurisdiction of the Division for Youth also meets
the definition of "child".
Abuse constitutes the most serious harm committed
against children. In New York State, the Family Court Act,
Section 1012.(e). defines an abused child as one whose parent
or other person legally responsible for her/his care:
- Inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the child, physical
injury by other than accidental means;
- Creates or allows to be created a substantial risk of
physical injury to such a child by other than accidental
means which would be likely to cause death, serious or protracted
disfigurement or protracted impairment of physical or emotional
health or protracted loss of impairment of the function
of any bodily organ;
- Commits or allows to be committed a sex offense against
- Allows, permits, or encourages a child to engage in any
act described in article 263 of the penal Law such as obscene
sexual performance, sexual conduct, prostitution);
- Commits any of the acts described in section 255.5 of
the penal law such as incest
In New York State, the term maltreatment is used in
Social Services Law and in Family Court Act, the term used
Maltreatment/Neglect includes a child's physical,
mental or emotional impairment, or imminent danger of impairment
by the parent's or legal guardian's failure to exercise a
minimum degree of care:
- In supplying the child with food, clothing, shelter or
education, or medical, dental optometrical or surgical care,
though financially able to do so or offered financial or
other reasonable means to do so; or
- 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 use of excessive
corporal punishment; or
- By misusing drugs or alcohol to the extent that he or
she loses self-control of his/her actions, or
- By any other acts of similarly serious nature requiring
the aid of the court; or
- By abandoning the child.
Additionally, a maltreated/neglected child is one who:
- Is less than 18 years of age and is defined as a neglected
child by the Family Court Act.
- Has had serious physical injury inflection upon her/him
by other than accidental means.
- Is 18 years of age or older, is neglected and resides
in one of the special residential care institutions listed
above under the definition of the child.
According to the Family court Act Section 1012, a "person
legally responsible" includes the child's custodian, guardian,
any other person responsible for the child's care, at the
relevant time. A custodian may include any person continually
or at regular intervals, found in the same household as the
child when the conduct of such person causes or contributes
to the abuse or neglect of the child.
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