Child Abuse Reporting

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 What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse is a legal term which is generally used to describe different types of abuse of minors, including:

  • Physical;
  • Mental
  • Emotional; or
  • Sexual.

In the majority of states, the term minor is used to describe any individual who is under 18 years of age. In some states, however, the age limit may be as low as 16 years of age.

Every state in the United States has their own laws which prohibit child abuse. There are various individuals who can commit child abuse.

These individuals typically include persons who are in a position to care for the child or who are in a position of authority over a child. This may frequently include individuals such as:

  • Parents;
  • Legal guardians; and
  • Grandparents and other close relatives.

Child abuse often occurs in conjunction with other legal violations, including child neglect or child maltreatment. Child neglect occurs when an individual, such as a parent or guardian, fails to provide the child with proper basic necessities, including:

  • Food;
  • Clothing;
  • Shelter;
  • Educational needs; and
  • Medical or healthcare needs.

Another issue related to child abuse is child abandonment. It is important to note that many instances of child abuse may involve a mix of the issues discussed previously.

What are Some Examples of Child Abuse?

As previously noted, child abuse may involve various forms of mental and emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of a child. Common examples of child abuse include:

  • Physical abuse in the form of:
    • Hitting;
    • Striking;
    • Hitting with an item, such as a belt;
    • Kicking;
    • Pulling the child’s hair;
    • Grabbing or shaking the child;
    • Choking; and
    • Other physical acts;
  • Mental or emotional abuse, including:
    • Say degrading things to the child;
    • Demeaning the child;
    • Telling the child lies or misinformation, often about the child’s other parent;
    • Teasing;
    • Depriving the child of love and affections;
    • Threatening the child with physical harm; or
    • Other forms of psychological manipulation;
  • Sexual abuse, which may include:
    • Engaging in sexual acts with the child;
    • Inappropriate touching;
    • Exposing a child to sexual materials; and
    • Other sexual acts.

Child abuse acts are punished strictly under state criminal laws. In many situations, criminal consequences may result, including criminal fines, jail time, or a combination of the two.

In cases of sexual abuse, a perpetrator may be required to register as a sex offender, possibly for their lifetime.

What are Child Abuse Reporting Laws?

Child abuse reporting laws are a body of specific laws which identify which individuals are required to report child abuse and under what circumstances. These laws create legal obligations for certain individuals, such as teachers and child care providers, to notify authorities if they suspect that a child has been a victim of child abuse.

Child abuse reporting laws may differ widely from state to state, but, in general, cover:

  • When to report child abuse;
  • Ways the individual can recognize and identify signs or symptoms of child abuse;
  • Differences between physical, mental, or sexual abuse of children; and
  • Various other legal and health issues related to children.

A report of child abuse should be made to local law enforcement authorities, such as the police and/or to an attorney. Child abuse is a very serious crime and failing to report this type of crime may lead to severe legal consequences.

Child abuse reporting laws may also govern other violations which involve children and their parents, such as child neglect or child abandonment.

What is Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting?

Mandatory child abuse reporting refers to situations in which reporting occurrences of child abuse is required be law. This typically applies to individuals who are engaged in specific professions, especially those professions which require frequent interactions with and supervision of children.

Some professions which may be subject to mandatory child abuse reporting laws and standards may include:

  • Teachers and teacher’s aides;
  • School advisors, coaches, and other school personnel;
  • Day care workers;
  • Counselors, especially ones serving at a school;
  • Doctors, dentists, and nurses;
  • Pediatricians;
  • Social workers;
  • Clergypersons; and
  • Police officers.

If an individual has a legal obligation to report child abuse and fails to do so, they may be subject to various legal consequences, depending on the laws of the state. The individual may also face other consequences or repercussions in different areas, including losing their job or their practicing license.

The training which is provided for these professions will typically instruct the individual as to whether or not they are required to report child abuse to the authorities. If an individual is unsure of their legal obligations related to child abuse issues, a family law attorney can help clarify which child abuse reporting laws may apply to them.

What if I Have Been Accused of Child Abuse?

In a child abuse case, the age of the child can be a factor in the type or severity of punishment an individual may receive in a child abuse case. The severity of the child abuse is another factor which may influence the punishment an individual may receive.

The possible criminal consequences for individuals who are convicted of child abuse may include:

  • Imprisonment;
  • Probation or parole;
  • Loss of custody or visitation with an individual’s child or children;
  • It could be on an individual’s record for life; and
  • Anger management or parenting classes.

The likelihood that an individual will face the consequences listed above depends upon:

  • The severity of the child abuse;
  • Similar prior convictions;
  • Whether they are currently on probation or parole; and
  • The number of instances of child abuse.

Can I be Held Civilly Liable for Child Abuse?

In addition to criminal punishments, an individual may also be held liable in a civil case to a victim of child abuse. An individual may be required to compensate the victim for their pain and suffering as well as any out-of-pocket medical expenses they were required to pay as a result of the abuse.

These medical expenses may also include future costs for therapy or other rehabilitative requirements the victim must utilize to overcome the abuse.

Are There Other Consequences of a Child Abuse Conviction?

Yes, in addition to the consequences discussed above, child abuse or neglect convictions may make it difficult for a parent to retain custody of their child or to obtain visitation rights with their child in the future. If an individual is convicted to child abuse or child neglect, they may have a more difficult time obtaining certain types of employment, especially that which involves children, such as in education or day care positions.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Child Abuse Reporting Issues and Laws?

It is essential to have the assistance of a family lawyer for any issues, questions, or concerns you may have related to child abuse reporting issues and laws. Child abuse reporting laws are are extremely important to protect the health and safety of children.

It can be helpful to hire an attorney if you are involved in any case where child abuse must be reported. In some cases, you may be called as a witness in a trial or you may be asked to provide evidence in a hearing.

Your attorney will guide you through the legal process and will represent you in court if you are required to appear. In addition, if you have a specific question regarding mandatory reporting laws your attorney will be able to provide you with legal guidance.

If you have been charged with child abuse or child neglect, it is important to consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. Because the penalties for this offense may be severe, it is important to have an attorney protect your rights.


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