Recognizing Child Abuse

Child abuse and neglect are defined by Federal and State laws. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is a Federal law. It provides basic standards that States must merge into their legal definitions of child abuse and neglect. The CAPTA definition of "child abuse and neglect" refers to:

"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 harm."

California's Welfare and Institutions Code names certain types of abuse that should be made known to DFCS and/or the police (WIC § 300).

These are the reportable abuse types along with some samples of each type of abuse:

  • Physical abuse: Non-accidental injuries and other acts of cruel or excessive punishment or discipline. It also includes other harms caused by the parent, guardian, or a member of his or her household, including failure to protect.
  • Neglect: A pattern of failure to provide food, clothing, shelter or health care for a child under one's care when the means to do so are at hand. It can also be due to the parent or guardian's mental illness, disability or substance abuse problem.
  • Sexual abuse/Exploitation: Any forced sexual action or exposure to sexual contact not proper for a child's age.
  • Emotional Abuse: Verbal assaults, threats, or hostile actions by the parent or guardian that cause fear, worry, severe sadness or serious inner distress.
  • Abandonment: Leaving a child with no plans for support, freely giving up physical custody of a child.

©2024 County of Santa Clara. All rights reserved.