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What is child abuse and neglect? How does my State define child abuse and neglect?

Child Welfare
Child Abuse and Neglect


Federal legislation provides a foundation for states by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), (42 U.S.C.A. §5106g), as amended by P.L. 111-320, the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010 defines child abuse and neglect as, at 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.”

However, within the minimum standards set by CAPTA, each state is responsible for providing its own definitions of child abuse and neglect. Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, provides links to each state's definitions of child abuse and neglect.

Follow the three easy steps to retrieve your results: 1) Select a State, 2) Select a Topic (check the box next to “Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect” under the heading Child Abuse and Neglect), and 3) Begin Your Search (click on Go!).

Last Reviewed: May 9, 2019