Statutory definitions of child sexual abuse

The following summary of relevant legislation was compiled by staff from the Australian Institute of Family Studies at the request of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Last updated: June 2013

Users should check the relevant legislation to be sure there have been no changes since this time.

Australia

Commonwealth

Table 1. Relevant legislation for Australia (Cth): Family Law Act 1975
Section Definition

4

"abuse" , in relation to a child, means:

  • (a) an assault, including a sexual assault, of the child; or
  • (b) a person (the first person ) involving the child in a sexual activity with the first person or another person in which the child is used, directly or indirectly, as a sexual object by the first person or the other person, and where there is unequal power in the relationship between the child and the first person; or
  • (c) causing the child to suffer serious psychological harm, including (but not limited to) when that harm is caused by the child being subjected to, or exposed to, family violence; or
  • (d) serious neglect of the child.

Australian Capital Territory

Table 2. Relevant legislation for Australian Capital Territory: Children and Young People Act 2008
Section Definition

342

In this Act: "abuse", of a child or young person, means-

  • (a) physical abuse; or
  • (b) sexual abuse; or
  • (c) emotional abuse (including psychological abuse) if the child or young person has experienced the abuse or is experiencing the abuse in a way that has caused or is causing significant harm to his or her wellbeing or development; or
  • (d) emotional abuse (including psychological abuse) if-
    • (i) the child or young person has seen or heard the physical, sexual or psychological abuse of a person with whom the child or young person has a domestic relationship, the exposure to which has caused or is causing significant harm to the wellbeing or development of the child or young person; or
    • (ii) if the child or young person has been put at risk of seeing or hearing abuse mentioned in subparagraph (i), the exposure to which would cause significant harm to the wellbeing or development of the child or young person.

New South Wales

Table 3. Relevant legislation for New South Wales: Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998
Section Definition

23

Child or young person at risk of significant harm

  1. For the purposes of this Part and Part 3, a child or young person is "at risk of significant harm" if current concerns exist for the safety, welfare or well-being of the child or young person because of the presence, to a significant extent, of any one or more of the following circumstances:
    • (a) the child's or young person's basic physical or psychological needs are not being met or are at risk of not being met,
    • (b) the parents or other caregivers have not arranged and are unable or unwilling to arrange for the child or young person to receive necessary medical care,
      • (b1) in the case of a child or young person who is required to attend school in accordance with the Education Act1990 -the parents or other caregivers have not arranged and are unable or unwilling to arrange for the child or young person to receive an education in accordance with that Act,
    • (c) the child or young person has been, or is at risk of being, physically or sexually abused or ill-treated,
    • (d) the child or young person is living in a household where there have been incidents of domestic violence and, as a consequence, the child or young person is at risk of serious physical or psychological harm,
    • (e) a parent or other caregiver has behaved in such a way towards the child or young person that the child or young person has suffered or is at risk of suffering serious psychological harm,
    • (f) the child was the subject of a pre-natal report under section 25 and the birth mother of the child did not engage successfully with support services to eliminate, or minimise to the lowest level reasonably practical, the risk factors that gave rise to the report.
      Note: Physical or sexual abuse may include an assault and can exist despite the fact that consent has been given.
  2. Any such circumstances may relate to a single act or omission or to a series of acts or omissions.

Note: See also sections 154(2)(a) and 156A(3) for other circumstances in which a child or young person is taken to be at risk of significant harm

Northern Territory

Table 4. Relevant legislation for Northern Territory: Care and Protection of Children Act 2007
Section Definition

14

Wellbeing of child

The wellbeing of a child includes the child's physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing.

15

Harm to child

  1. Harm to a child is any significant detrimental effect caused by any act, omission or circumstance on:
    • (a) the physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing of the child; or
    • (b) the physical, psychological or emotional development of the child.
  2. Without limiting subsection (1), harm can be caused by the following:
    • (a) physical, psychological or emotional abuse or neglect of the child;
    • (b) sexual abuse or other exploitation of the child;
    • (c) exposure of the child to physical violence.

Example: A child witnessing violence between the child's parents at home.

16

Exploitation of child

  1. Exploitation of a child includes sexual and any other forms of exploitation of the child.
  2. Without limiting subsection (1), sexual exploitation of a child includes:
    • (a) sexual abuse of the child; and
    • (b) involving the child as a participant or spectator in any of the following:
      • (i) an act of a sexual nature;
      • (ii) prostitution;
      • (iii) a pornographic performance.

Queensland

Table 5. Relevant legislation for Queensland: Child Protection Act 1999
Section Definition

9

What is harm

  1. Harm, to a child, is any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child's physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing.
  2. It is immaterial how the harm is caused.
  3. Harm can be caused by-
    • (a) physical, psychological or emotional abuse or neglect; or
    • (b) sexual abuse or exploitation.
  4. Harm can be caused by-
    • (a) a single act, omission or circumstance; or
    • (b) a series or combination of acts, omissions or circumstances.

South Australia

Table 6. Relevant legislation for South Australia: Children's Protection Act 1993
Section Definition

6

"abuse or neglect", in relation to a child, means-

  • (a) sexual abuse of the child; or
  • (b) physical or emotional abuse of the child, or neglect of the child, to the extent that-
    • (i) the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, physical or psychological injury detrimental to the child's wellbeing; or
    • (ii) the child's physical or psychological development is in jeopardy,

and "abused" or "neglected" has a corresponding meaning.

Tasmania

Table 7. Relevant legislation for Tasmania: Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1997
Section Definition

4

Meaning of "at risk"

  1. For the purposes of this Act, a child is at risk if -
    • (a) the child has been, is being, or is likely to be, abused or neglected; or
    • (b) any person with whom the child resides or who has frequent contact with the child (whether the person is or is not a guardian of the child) -
      • (i) has threatened to kill or abuse or neglect the child and there is a reasonable likelihood of the threat being carried out; or
      • (ii) has killed or abused or neglected some other child or an adult and there is a reasonable likelihood of the child in question being killed, abused or neglected by that person; or
    • (ba) the child is an affected child within the meaning of the Family Violence Act 2004; or
    • (c) the guardians of the child are -
      • (i) unable to maintain the child; or
      • (ii) unable to exercise adequate supervision and control over the child; or
      • (iii) unwilling to maintain the child; or
      • (iv) unwilling to exercise adequate supervision and control over the child; or
      • (v) dead, have abandoned the child or cannot be found after reasonable inquiry; or
      • (v) are unwilling or unable to prevent the child from suffering abuse or neglect; or
    • (d) the child is under 16 years of age and does not, without lawful excuse, attend a school, or other educational or training institution, regularly.
  2. For the purposes of subsection (1), it does not matter whether the conduct that puts a child at risk occurred or, as the case requires, is likely to occur wholly or partly outside Tasmania.

Victoria

Table 8. Relevant legislation for Victoria: Children, Youth and Families Act 2005
Section Definition

162

When is a child in need of protection?

  1. For the purposes of this Act a child is in need of protection if any of the following grounds exist-
    • (a) the child has been abandoned by his or her parents and after reasonable inquiries-
      • (i) the parents cannot be found; and
      • (ii) no other suitable person can be found who is willing and able to care for the child;
    • (b) the child's parents are dead or incapacitated and there is no other suitable person willing and able to care for the child;
    • (c) the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm as a result of physical injury and the child's parents have not protected, or are unlikely to protect, the child from harm of that type;
    • (d) the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm as a result of sexual abuse and the child's parents have not protected, or are unlikely to protect, the child from harm of that type;
    • (e) the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, emotional or psychological harm of such a kind that the child's emotional or intellectual development is, or is likely to be, significantly damaged and the child's parents have not protected, or are unlikely to protect, the child from harm of that type;
    • (f) the child's physical development or health has been, or is likely to be, significantly harmed and the child's parents have not provided, arranged or allowed the provision of, or are unlikely to provide, arrange or allow the provision of, basic care or effective medical, surgical or other remedial care.
  2. For the purposes of subsections (1)(c) to (1)(f), the harm may be constituted by a single act, omission or circumstance or accumulate through a series of acts, omissions or circumstances.

Western Australia

Table 9. Relevant legislation for Western Australia: Children and Community Services Act 2004
Section Definition

28

When child is in need of protection

  1. In this section -
    harm, in relation to a child, means any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child's wellbeing;
    neglect includes failure by a child's parents to provide, arrange, or allow the provision of -
    • (a) adequate care for the child; or
    • (b) effective medical, therapeutic or remedial treatment for the child.
  2. For the purposes of this Part a child is in need of protection if -
    • (a) the child has been abandoned by his or her parents and, after reasonable inquiries -
      • (i) the parents cannot be found; and
      • (ii) no suitable adult relative or other suitable adult can be found who is willing and able to care for the child;

      or

    • (b) the child's parents are dead or incapacitated and, after reasonable inquiries, no suitable adult relative or other suitable adult can be found who is willing and able to care for the child; or
    • (c) the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, harm as a result of any one or more of the following -
      • (i) physical abuse;
      • (ii) sexual abuse;
      • (iii) emotional abuse;
      • (iv) psychological abuse;
      • (v) neglect,

      and the child's parents have not protected, or are unlikely or unable to protect, the child from harm, or further harm, of that kind; or

    • (d) the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, harm as a result of -
      • (i) the child's parents being unable to provide, or arrange the provision of, adequate care for the child; or
      • (ii) the child's parents being unable to provide, or arrange the provision of, effective medical, therapeutic or other remedial treatment for the child.

International

New Zealand

Table 10. Relevant legislation for New Zealand: Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989
Section Definition

14

Definition of child or young person in need of care or protection

  1. A child or young person is in need of care or protection within the meaning of this Part if-
    • (a) the child or young person is being, or is likely to be, harmed (whether physically or emotionally or sexually), ill-treated, abused, or seriously deprived; or
    • (b) the child's or young person's development or physical or mental or emotional well-being is being, or is likely to be, impaired or neglected, and that impairment or neglect is, or is likely to be, serious and avoidable; or
    • (c) serious differences exist between the child or young person and the parents or guardians or other persons having the care of the child or young person to such an extent that the physical or mental or emotional well-being of the child or young person is being seriously impaired; or
    • (d) the child or young person has behaved, or is behaving, in a manner that-
      • (i) is, or is likely to be, harmful to the physical or mental or emotional well-being of the child or young person or to others; and
      • (ii) the child's or young person's parents or guardians, or the persons having the care of the child or young person, are unable or unwilling to control; or
    • (e) in the case of a child of or over the age of 10 years and under 14 years, the child has committed an offence or offences the number, nature, or magnitude of which is such as to give serious concern for the well-being of the child; or
    • (f) the parents or guardians or other persons having the care of the child or young person are unwilling or unable to care for the child or young person; or
    • (g) the parents or guardians or other persons having the care of the child or young person have abandoned the child or young person; or
    • (h) serious differences exist between a parent, guardian, or other person having the care of the child or young person and any other parent, guardian, or other person having the care of the child or young person to such an extent that the physical or mental or emotional well-being of the child or young person is being seriously impaired; or
    • (i) the ability of the child or young person to form a significant psychological attachment to the person or persons having the care of the child or young person is being, or is likely to be, seriously impaired because of the number of occasions on which the child or young person has been in the care or charge of a person (not being a person specified in subsection (2)) for the purposes of maintaining the child or young person apart from the child's or young person's parents or guardians.
  2. The persons referred to in subsection (1)(i) are as follows:
    • (a) any person who has custody of the child or young person pursuant to the order of any court, whether or not that court is a court within the meaning of this Act:
    • (b) any person who has the child or young person in that person's care-
      • (i) pursuant to an agreement under section 139 or section 140 or section 141 or section 142; or
      • (ii) for the purpose of adoption, and the requirements of section 6 of the Adoption Act 1955 are being complied with:
    • (c) any person who is caring for the child or young person in-
      • (i) any residential accommodation provided for children or young persons attending a registered school within the meaning of the Education Act 1989:
      • (ii) a hospital care institution within the meaning of section 58(4) of the Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act 2001.

United Kingdom

Table 11. Relevant legislation for UK: Children Act 1989
Section Definition

31

Care and Supervision

  • (2) A court may only make a care order or supervision order if it is satisfied-
    • (a) that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and
    • (b) that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to-
      • (i) the care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or
      • (ii) the child's being beyond parental control.
  • (9) In this section-
    • "harm" means ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development [including, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another];
    • "development" means physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development;
    • "health" means physical or mental health; and
    • "ill-treatment" includes sexual abuse and forms of ill-treatment which are not physical.
  • (10) Where the question of whether harm suffered by a child is significant turns on the child's health or development, his health or development shall be compared with that which could reasonably be expected of a similar child.

Annotations:
Amendments (Textual)

S. 31(9): words in definition of "harm" inserted (31.1.2005) by 2002 c. 38, ss. 120, 148 (with Sch. 4 paras. 6-8); S.I. 2004/3203, art. 2(2)

Ontario (Canada)

Table 12. Relevant legislation for Ontario (Canada): Child and Family Services Act R.S.O. 1990 Chapter C.11
Section Definition

Part II Child Protection

S37(2)

Child in need of protection

  1. A child is in need of protection where,
    • (a) the child has suffered physical harm, inflicted by the person having charge of the child or caused by or resulting from that person's,
      • (i) failure to adequately care for, provide for, supervise or protect the child, or
      • (ii) pattern of neglect in caring for, providing for, supervising or protecting the child;
    • (b) there is a risk that the child is likely to suffer physical harm inflicted by the person having charge of the child or caused by or resulting from that person's,
      • (i) failure to adequately care for, provide for, supervise or protect the child, or
      • (ii) pattern of neglect in caring for, providing for, supervising or protecting the child;
    • (c) the child has been sexually molested or sexually exploited, by the person having charge of the child or by another person where the person having charge of the child knows or should know of the possibility of sexual molestation or sexual exploitation and fails to protect the child;

      Note: On a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor, clause (c) is repealed by the Statutes of Ontario, 2008, chapter 21, section 2 and the following substituted:

      (c) the child has been sexually molested or sexually exploited, including by child pornography, by the person having charge of the child or by another person where the person having charge of the child knows or should know of the possibility of sexual molestation or sexual exploitation and fails to protect the child;

      See: 2008, c. 21, ss. 2, 6.

    • (d) there is a risk that the child is likely to be sexually molested or sexually exploited as described in clause (c);
    • (e) the child requires medical treatment to cure, prevent or alleviate physical harm or suffering and the child's parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide, or refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to, the treatment;
    • (f) the child has suffered emotional harm, demonstrated by serious,
      • (i) anxiety,
      • (ii) depression,
      • (iii) withdrawal,
      • (iv) self-destructive or aggressive behaviour, or
      • (v) delayed development,
    • and there are reasonable grounds to believe that the emotional harm suffered by the child results from the actions, failure to act or pattern of neglect on the part of the child's parent or the person having charge of the child;
    • (f.1) the child has suffered emotional harm of the kind described in subclause (f) (i), (ii), (iii), (iv) or (v) and the child's parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide, or refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to, services or treatment to remedy or alleviate the harm;
    • (g) there is a risk that the child is likely to suffer emotional harm of the kind described in subclause (f) (i), (ii), (iii), (iv) or (v) resulting from the actions, failure to act or pattern of neglect on the part of the child's parent or the person having charge of the child;
    • (g.1)there is a risk that the child is likely to suffer emotional harm of the kind described in subclause (f) (i), (ii), (iii), (iv) or (v) and that the child's parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide, or refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to, services or treatment to prevent the harm;
    • (h) the child suffers from a mental, emotional or developmental condition that, if not remedied, could seriously impair the child's development and the child's parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide, or refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to, treatment to remedy or alleviate the condition;
    • (i) the child has been abandoned, the child's parent has died or is unavailable to exercise his or her custodial rights over the child and has not made adequate provision for the child's care and custody, or the child is in a residential placement and the parent refuses or is unable or unwilling to resume the child's care and custody;
    • (j) the child is less than twelve years old and has killed or seriously injured another person or caused serious damage to another person's property, services or treatment are necessary to prevent a recurrence and the child's parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide, or refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to, those services or treatment;
    • (k) the child is less than twelve years old and has on more than one occasion injured another person or caused loss or damage to another person's property, with the encouragement of the person having charge of the child or because of that person's failure or inability to supervise the child adequately; or
    • (l) the child's parent is unable to care for the child and the child is brought before the court with the parent's consent and, where the child is twelve years of age or older, with the child's consent, to be dealt with under this Part. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.11, s. 37 (2); 1999, c. 2, s. 9.

Illinois (USA)

Table 13. Relevant legislation for Illinois (USA): The Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (325 ILCS [Illinois Compiled Statutes] 5/)
Section Definition

(325 ILCS 5/3) (from Ch. 23, par. 2053)

Section 3

As used in this Act unless the context otherwise requires:

"Abused child" means a child whose parent or immediate family member, or any person responsible for the child's welfare, or any individual residing in the same home as the child, or a paramour of the child's parent:

  • (a) inflicts, causes to be inflicted, or allows to be inflicted upon such child physical injury, by other than accidental means, which causes death, disfigurement, impairment of physical or emotional health, or loss or impairment of any bodily function;
  • (b) creates a substantial risk of physical injury to such child by other than accidental means which would be likely to cause death, disfigurement, impairment of physical or emotional health, or loss or impairment of any bodily function;
  • (c) commits or allows to be committed any sex offense against such child, as such sex offenses are defined in the Criminal Code of 2012 or in the Wrongs to Children Act, and extending those definitions of sex offenses to include children under 18 years of age;
  • (d) commits or allows to be committed an act or acts of torture upon such child;
  • (e) inflicts excessive corporal punishment;
  • (f) commits or allows to be committed the offense of female genital mutilation, as defined in Section 12-34 of the Criminal Code of 2012, against the child;
  • (g) causes to be sold, transferred, distributed, or given to such child under 18 years of age, a controlled (a) substance as defined in Section 102 of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act in violation of Article IV of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act or in violation of the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act, except for controlled substances that are prescribed in accordance with Article III of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act and are dispensed to such child in a manner that substantially complies with the prescription; or
  • (h) commits or allows to be committed the offense of involuntary servitude, involuntary sexual servitude of a minor, or trafficking in persons as defined in Section 10-9 of the Criminal Code of 2012 against the child.

A child shall not be considered abused for the sole reason that the child has been relinquished in accordance with the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act.

"Neglected child" means any child who is not receiving the proper or necessary nourishment or medically indicated treatment including food or care not provided solely on the basis of the present or anticipated mental or physical impairment as determined by a physician acting alone or in consultation with other physicians or otherwise is not receiving the proper or necessary support or medical or other remedial care recognized under State law as necessary for a child's well-being, or other care necessary for his or her well-being, including adequate food, clothing and shelter; or who is subjected to an environment which is injurious insofar as

  • (i) the child's environment creates a likelihood of harm to the child's health, physical well-being, or welfare and
  • (ii) the likely harm to the child is the result of a blatant disregard of parent or caretaker responsibilities; or who is abandoned by his or her parents or other person responsible for the child's welfare without a proper plan of care; or who has been provided with interim crisis intervention services under Section 3-5 of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 and whose parent, guardian, or custodian refuses to permit the child to return home and no other living arrangement agreeable to the parent, guardian, or custodian can be made, and the parent, guardian, or custodian has not made any other appropriate living arrangement for the child; or who is a newborn infant whose blood, urine, or meconium contains any amount of a controlled substance as defined in subsection (f) of Section 102 of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act or a metabolite thereof, with the exception of a controlled substance or metabolite thereof whose presence in the newborn infant is the result of medical treatment administered to the mother or the newborn infant. A child shall not be considered neglected for the sole reason that the child's parent or other person responsible for his or her welfare has left the child in the care of an adult relative for any period of time. A child shall not be considered neglected for the sole reason that the child has been relinquished in accordance with the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. A child shall not be considered neglected or abused for the sole reason that such child's parent or other person responsible for his or her welfare depends upon spiritual means through prayer alone for the treatment or cure of disease or remedial care as provided under Section 4 of this Act. A child shall not be considered neglected or abused solely because the child is not attending school in accordance with the requirements of Article 26 of The School Code, as amended.

Note section 3 also defines: "Adult resident" means any person between 18 and 22 years of age who resides in any facility licensed by the Department under the Child Care Act of 1969. For purposes of this Act, the criteria set forth in the definitions of "abused child" and "neglected child" shall be used in determining whether an adult resident is abused or neglected.

California (USA)

Table 14. Relevant legislation for California (USA): PENAL CODE ARTICLE 2.5. Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act [11164. - 11174.3.] ( Heading of Article 2.5 amended by Stats. 1987, Ch. 1444, Sec. 1.)
Section Definition

11165.1.

As used in this article, "sexual abuse" means sexual assault or sexual exploitation as defined by the following:

  • (a) "Sexual assault" means conduct in violation of one or more of the following sections: Section 261 (rape), subdivision (d) of Section 261.5 (statutory rape), 264.1 (rape in concert), 285 (incest), 286 (sodomy), subdivision (a) or (b), or paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 288 (lewd or lascivious acts upon a child), 288a (oral copulation), 289 (sexual penetration), or 647.6 (child molestation).
  • (b) Conduct described as "sexual assault" includes, but is not limited to, all of the following:
    1. Any penetration, however slight, of the vagina or anal opening of one person by the penis of another person, whether or not there is the emission of semen.
    2. Any sexual contact between the genitals or anal opening of one person and the mouth or tongue of another person.
    3. Any intrusion by one person into the genitals or anal opening of another person, including the use of any object for this purpose, except that, it does not include acts performed for a valid medical purpose.
    4. The intentional touching of the genitals or intimate parts (including the breasts, genital area, groin, inner thighs, and buttocks) or the clothing covering them, of a child, or of the perpetrator by a child, for purposes of sexual arousal or gratification, except that, it does not include acts which may reasonably be construed to be normal caretaker responsibilities; interactions with, or demonstrations of affection for, the child; or acts performed for a valid medical purpose.
    5. The intentional masturbation of the perpetrator's genitals in the presence of a child.
  • (c) "Sexual exploitation" refers to any of the following:
    1. Conduct involving matter depicting a minor engaged in obscene acts in violation of Section 311.2 (preparing, selling, or distributing obscene matter) or subdivision (a) of Section 311.4 (employment of minor to perform obscene acts).
    2. Any person who knowingly promotes, aids, or assists, employs, uses, persuades, induces, or coerces a child, or any person responsible for a child's welfare, who knowingly permits or encourages a child to engage in, or assist others to engage in, prostitution or a live performance involving obscene sexual conduct, or to either pose or model alone or with others for purposes of preparing a film, photograph, negative, slide, drawing, painting, or other pictorial depiction, involving obscene sexual conduct. For the purpose of this section, "person responsible for a child's welfare" means a parent, guardian, foster parent, or a licensed administrator or employee of a public or private residential home, residential school, or other residential institution.
    3. Any person who depicts a child in, or who knowingly develops, duplicates, prints, or exchanges, any film, photograph, video tape, negative, or slide in which a child is engaged in an act of obscene sexual conduct, except for those activities by law enforcement and prosecution agencies and other persons described in subdivisions (c) and (e) of Section 311.3.

(Amended by Stats. 2000, Ch. 287, Sec. 21. Effective January 1, 2001.)

11165.2.

As used in this article, "neglect" means the negligent treatment or the maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for the child's welfare under circumstances indicating harm or threatened harm to the child's health or welfare. The term includes both acts and omissions on the part of the responsible person.

  • (a) "Severe neglect" means the negligent failure of a person having the care or custody of a child to protect the child from severe malnutrition or medically diagnosed nonorganic failure to thrive. "Severe neglect" also means those situations of neglect where any person having the care or custody of a child willfully causes or permits the person or health of the child to be placed in a situation such that his or her person or health is endangered, as proscribed by Section 11165.3, including the intentional failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
  • (b) "General neglect" means the negligent failure of a person having the care or custody of a child to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision where no physical injury to the child has occurred.

For the purposes of this chapter, a child receiving treatment by spiritual means as provided in Section 16509.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code or not receiving specified medical treatment for religious reasons, shall not for that reason alone be considered a neglected child. An informed and appropriate medical decision made by parent or guardian after consultation with a physician or physicians who have examined the minor does not constitute neglect.

(Repealed and added by Stats. 1987, Ch. 1459, Sec. 7.)

11165.3.

As used in this article, "the willful harming or injuring of a child or the endangering of the person or health of a child," means a situation in which any person willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon, unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the child to be placed in a situation in which his or her person or health is endangered.

(Amended by Stats. 2004, Ch. 842, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 2005.)

11165.4.

As used in this article, "unlawful corporal punishment or injury" means a situation where any person willfully inflicts upon any child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or injury resulting in a traumatic condition. It does not include an amount of force that is reasonable and necessary for a person employed by or engaged in a public school to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to person or damage to property, for purposes of self-defense, or to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects within the control of the pupil, as authorized by Section 49001 of the Education Code. It also does not include the exercise of the degree of physical control authorized by Section 44807 of the Education Code. It also does not include an injury caused by reasonable and necessary force used by a peace officer acting within the course and scope of his or her employment as a peace officer.

(Amended by Stats. 1993, Ch. 346, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 1994.)

11165.5.

As used in this article, the term "abuse or neglect in out-of-home care" includes physical injury or death inflicted upon a child by another person by other than accidental means, sexual abuse as defined in Section 11165.1, neglect as defined in Section 11165.2, unlawful corporal punishment or injury as defined in Section 11165.4, or the willful harming or injuring of a child or the endangering of the person or health of a child, as defined in Section 11165.3, where the person responsible for the child's welfare is a licensee, administrator, or employee of any facility licensed to care for children, or an administrator or employee of a public or private school or other institution or agency. "Abuse or neglect in out-of-home care" does not include an injury caused by reasonable and necessary force used by a peace officer acting within the course and scope of his or her employment as a peace officer.

(Amended by Stats. 2007, Ch. 393, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 2008.)

11165.6.

As used in this article, the term "child abuse or neglect" includes physical injury or death inflicted by other than accidental means upon a child by another person, sexual abuse as defined in Section 11165.1, neglect as defined in Section 11165.2, the willful harming or injuring of a child or the endangering of the person or health of a child, as defined in Section 11165.3, and unlawful corporal punishment or injury as defined in Section 11165.4. "Child abuse or neglect" does not include a mutual affray between minors. "Child abuse or neglect" does not include an injury caused by reasonable and necessary force used by a peace officer acting within the course and scope of his or her employment as a peace officer.

(Amended by Stats. 2007, Ch. 393, Sec. 2. Effective January 1, 2008.)

11165.13

For purposes of this article, a positive toxicology screen at the time of the delivery of an infant is not in and of itself a sufficient basis for reporting child abuse or neglect. However, any indication of maternal substance abuse shall lead to an assessment of the needs of the mother and child pursuant to Section 123605 of the Health and Safety Code. If other factors are present that indicate risk to a child, then a report shall be made. However, a report based on risk to a child which relates solely to the inability of the parent to provide the child with regular care due to the parent's substance abuse shall be made only to a county welfare or probation department, and not to a law enforcement agency.

(Amended by Stats. 2000, Ch. 916, Sec. 11. Effective January 1, 2001.)

11166.

(1) …For purposes of this article, the pregnancy of a minor does not, in and of itself, constitute a basis for a reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse.

11166.05.

Any mandated reporter who has knowledge of or who reasonably suspects that a child is suffering serious emotional damage or is at a substantial risk of suffering serious emotional damage, evidenced by states of being or behavior, including, but not limited to, severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or untoward aggressive behavior toward self or others, may make a report to an agency specified in Section 11165.9.

(Amended by Stats. 2004, Ch. 842, Sec. 9. Effective January 1, 2005.)


Research by AIFS for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Further reading on child abuse and neglect

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