Child Welfare Policy Manual

October 02, 2014

2.3  CAPTA, Definitions

1. Question: We find the "rape" and "statutory rape" language in the definition of sexual abuse found at section 111 (4)(B) of CAPTA confusing, especially within the context of the general definition of child abuse and neglect at section 3 (2). Please clarify.

Answer: The provision at section 3 (2) defines child abuse and neglect as "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 harm." Section 111 (4)(B) goes on to say that the term sexual abuse includes "the rape, and in the cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children." We understand section 111 (4)(B) to define the circumstances in which a parent or caretaker, although not the perpetrator, is chargeable with child abuse and neglect because of sexual acts committed by a third party.

For the purposes of CAPTA, child abuse and neglect, by definition, is limited to a recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker. Thus, if a child is raped due to a failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, such failure to act would be considered child abuse by the parent or caretaker under CAPTA, regardless of the identity of the perpetrator. In addition, the definition at section 111 (4)(B) means that action or failure to act by a parent or caretaker that results in statutory rape by another caretaker or family member is considered to be sexual abuse.

2. Question: Definitions are found in sections 106(b)(4), as well as in sections 3 and 111. What is the difference between the definitions found in these sections?

Answer: The differences in the definitions found in these sections is in what they govern. The definitions of "near fatality" and "serious bodily injury" in sections 106 (b)(4) of CAPTA refer to those specific terms as used in subsection (b) of section 106 of CAPTA. For instance, whenever the terms "near fatality" or "serious bodily injury" are used in subsection (b), the definitions found in section 106(b)(4) would apply.

Section 111, on the other hand, provides the broader definitions of "sexual abuse" and "infant or toddler with a disability," which are used for all other purposes of Title I of CAPTA.

The definitions in section 3 provide still broader definitions such as "child abuse and neglect" and "child with a disability," which are used throughout all of CAPTA.

3. Question: Section 106(b)(2)(B)(x) of CAPTA requires a State to provide for the public disclosure of findings or information about a case of child abuse or neglect which results in a child fatality or near fatality. For the purposes of this requirement, what is considered a "near fatality"?

Answer: A "near fatality" is defined under section 106 (b)(4)(A) as "an act that, as certified by a physician, places the child in serious or critical condition." For example, if hospital records reflect that the child's condition is "serious" or "critical," this would be considered a "near fatality" under CAPTA.

  • Source/Date: ACYF-NCCAN-PIQ-97-01 (3/4/97); updated 9/27/11
  • Legal and Related References: Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), as amended (42 U.S.C. 5101 et seq.) - sections 106(b)(2)(B)(x) and (b)(4(A)