Child abuse and neglect are defined by Federal and State laws. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is the Federal legislation that provides minimum standards that states must incorporate in their statutory definitions of child abuse and neglect.

Definitions of Child Abuse and Maltreatment

Child Abuse

Generally, the term abuse encompasses the most serious harms committed against children. It includes when a child’s parent or other legally responsible caregiver inflicts serious physical injury and or has sexual contact with a child. It also includes when the caregiver causes a substantial risk the child will be abused or allows someone else to abuse their child.

Child Maltreatment

Maltreatment refers to the quality of care a child is receiving from those responsible for him/her.  Maltreatment is often referred to as neglect. It occurs when the child’s caregiver harms the child is some way because they did not provide even a minimum degree of care in parenting. Maltreatment includes failure to provide a child  food, clothing, shelter, education, or medical care when financially able to do so. Maltreatment also includes excessive corporal punishment and can result from abandonment of a child or from not providing adequate supervision for the child. A child may also be maltreated if a parent engages in excessive use of drugs or alcohol such that it interferes with their ability to adequately supervise the child.

Neglect is defined in law at Section 1012 of the Family Court Act. Maltreatment is defined in law at Section 412 of the Social Services Law. Although the terms are not synonymous in the law, for the purposes of this website, the terms neglect and maltreatment are used interchangeably.

The definitions above are taken from the New York State Office of Children & Family Services .

Signs of child abuse

Signs of child abuse can take many forms. Often one or two of these signs do not confirm that a child has been abused but are causes of concern.

Physical signs of abuse include unusual injuries in a child. Children have accidents and injuries every day. Often injuries from abuse are different. There is no good or consistent explanation for the injury. The explanation may not make sense or may not be consistent with the child’s age or development.

Children also have behavioral indicators of abuse. Abused children may have nightmares, anxiety or depression, low self-esteem, or problems in school. They may seem wary of adults or frightened to go home. Sometimes children who experience trauma or abuse show sudden changes in behavior such as changes in eating or sleeping patterns.

For more information or to request a speaker, call the Child Advocacy Center at (716) 285-0045.