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Child Abuse Reporting
PA Child Abuse Reporting

Section 3
Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect

CEU Question 3 | CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Child Abuse
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While Federal legislation provides a foundation for the States by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect, each individual State is responsible for defining child maltreatment within that State’s law [14]. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, or CAPTA, defines child abuse and neglect at a minimum as, "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" [15].

Within the minimum standards for defining child abuse and neglect set by CAPTA, each state is responsible for providing its own definitions of child abuse and neglect. These definitions are typically located in two places within each individual State’s statutory code [14]:

• Civil statutes provide definitions of child maltreatment to guide individuals who are mandated to identify and report suspected child abuse and determine the grounds for intervention by State child protection agencies and civil courts.
• Criminal statutes define those forms of child maltreatment that can subject an offender to arrest and prosecution in criminal courts.

Many States, including Pennsylvania, recognize four major types of the maltreatment of children in their definitions including physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse or exploitation, and emotional abuse [14].

2. a. i. WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT?

According to the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law, the term child abuse shall mean intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly doing any of the following to a child of 18 years of age or younger [16,17]:

• Causing bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.
• Fabricating, feigning, or intentionally exaggerating or inducing a medical symptom or disease which results in a potentially harmful medical evaluation or treatment to the child through any recent act.
• Causing or substantially contributing to serious mental injury to a child through any act or failure to act or a series of such acts or failures to act.
• Causing sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any act or failure to act.
• Creating a reasonable likelihood of bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.
• Creating a likelihood of sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any recent act or failure to act.
• Causing serious physical neglect of a child.
• Engaging in any of the following recent acts:
      o Kicking, biting, throwing, burning, stabbing, or cutting a child in a manner that endangers the child.
      o Unreasonably restraining or confining a child, based on consideration of the method, location, or the duration of the       restraint or confinement.
      o Forcefully shaking a child under one year of age.
      o Forcefully slapping or otherwise striking a child under one year of age.
      o Interfering with the breathing of a child.
      o Causing a child to be present at a location while a violation relating to the operation of methamphetamine laboratory is       occurring, providing that the violation is being investigated by law enforcement.
      o Leaving a child unsupervised with an individual, other than the child’s parent, who the actor knows or reasonably       should have known:
             Is required to register as a Tier II or Tier III sexual offender, when the victim of the sexual offense was younger than             age 18 when the crime was committed
             Has been determined to be a sexually violent predator
             Has been determined to be a sexually violent delinquent child
• Causing the death of the child through any act or failure to act. [17]
• Engaging a child in a severe form of trafficking in persons or sex trafficking, as those terms are defined under section 103 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (114 Stat. 1466, 22 U.S.C §7102).

2. a. ii. WHO IS A PERPETRATOR THROUGH AN ACT AND BY FAILURE TO ACT?

According to the Pennsylvania law, effective December 31, 2014, a ‘perpetrator’ means a person who has committed child abuse. The term includes only the following:

• A parent of the child
• A spouse or former spouse of the child’s parent
• A paramour or former paramour of the child’s parent
• A person of 14 years of age or older and responsible for the child’s welfare or having direct contact with children as an employee of a child-care services, a school or through a program, activity or service.
• An individual of 14 years of age or older who resides in the same home as the child
• An individual of 18 years of age or older who does not reside in the same home as the child but is related within the third degree of consanguinity of affinity by birth or adoption to the child
• An individual 18 years of age or older who engages a child in severe forms of trafficking in persons or sex trafficking, as those terms are defined under section 103 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (114 Stat. 1466, 22 U.S.C §7102).

Only the following may be considered a perpetrator for failing to act:
• A parent of the child
• A spouse or former spouse of the child’s parent
• A paramour or former paramour of the child’s parent
• A person of 18 years of age or older who is responsible for the child’s welfare
• A person of 18 years of age or older who resides in the same home as the child

“Human Trafficking”: The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a child for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Under federal law, sex trafficking (such as prostitution, pornography, exotic dancing, etc.) does not there be force, fraud or coercion if the victim is under 18.

“Commercial Sex Act” – Any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person

A ‘person’ responsible for the child’s welfare is a person who provides permanent or temporary care; supervision; mental health diagnosis or treatment; training; or control of a child in lieu of parental care, supervision, and control. The term includes any such person who has direct or regular contact with a child through any program, activity, or service sponsored by a school, for-profit organization, or religious or other not-for-profit organization [17].

2. a. ii. 1. INCLUSION OF SCHOOL EMPLOYEES

According to the Pennsylvania Code, school employees are among those who are mandated reporters and are required to report suspected child abuse and follow mandated reporting requirements [18]. The definition of a school employee as can be found in the CPSL is: a ‘school employee’ is anindividual who is employed by a school or who provides a program, activity or service sponsored by a school. The term does not apply to administrative or other support personnel unless the administrative or other support personnel have direct contact with the children.

A school is a facility providing elementary, secondary, or postsecondary educational services, including public and nonpublic schools, vocational-technical schools, and institutions of higher education [19].

The inclusion of school employees for reporting child abuse includes all of the employees of either an independent contractor of a school entity as well as a school entity, which is defined as a public school, charter school, cyber charter school, private school, nonpublic school, intermediate unit, or vocational-technical school, who have direct contact with children. The definition of direct contact with children is "the possibility of care, supervision, guidance, or control of children or routine interaction with children."

School employees must complete training that covers a number of topics related to recognizing and reporting suspected child abuse as in accordance with the Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting Training from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, specifically Act 126. These topics include [20]:

• The recognition of the signs of abuse, which is defined as conduct that falls within the purview and reporting requirements under the Child Protective Services Law;
• The recognition of the signs of sexual misconduct, as defined in Act 126;
• Reporting requirements for suspected abuse and sexual misconduct in the Commonwealth, including those set forth in the Child Protective Services Act and the Educator Discipline Act;
• Provision of the Educator Discipline Act, including mandatory reporting requirements;
• School entity’s policies related to the reporting of suspected abuse and sexual misconduct;
• Maintenance of professional and appropriate relationships with students

2. a. iii. ACT OR FAILURE TO ACT

"Recent act or failure to act." Any act or failure to act committed within two years of the date of the report to the department or county agency. [30]

Act is something that is done to harm or cause potential harm to a child. [30]

Failure to act is something that is NOT done to prevent harm or potential harm to a child. [30]

When it comes to child abuse and neglect, when an individual acts or fails to prevent something that causes serious harm to a child under the age of 18, otherwise known as a failure to act, that harm can take many forms including serious physical injury, serious mental injury, or sexual abuse or exploitation [21].

2. b. ALL CATEGORIES OF CHILD ABUSE

There are several different types of child abuse that are recognized in the state of Pennsylvania. These include: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse/exploitation, emotional abuse, and abandonment. Knowing the indicators or signs and symptoms is important for all those who come into contact with children on a regular basis to know what constitutes abuse and neglect and when it must be reported.

Physical Abuse

Physical child abuse can mean any of the following:

• Any recent act or failure to act by a perpetrator that causes nonaccidental serious physical injury to a child under age 18
• Any recent act, failure to act, or series of such acts or failures to act by a perpetrator that creates an imminent risk of serious physical injury to a child under age 18

Where ‘serious bodily injury’ means bodily injury to the child that creates a substantial risk of death or causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ to the child.

‘Serious physical injury’ means an injury that causes a child severe pain or significantly impairing a child’s physical functioning, either temporarily or permanently.

‘Nonaccidental’ means an injury that is the result of an intentional act that is committed with disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk to the child [22].

A child who is or has been physically abused can have sustained that abuse from anyone that they had come into contact with. According to the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, parents, or those who have a parental relationship to a child, accounted for approximately 61% of the substantiated abuse perpetrators and 11% of the perpetrators had been named in previous substantiated reports [23].

The abuse that a child sustains is not an accident. Some examples of physical child abuse are [24]:

• Hitting and beating a child
• Hitting a child with an object, such as a belt or a stick
• Kicking a child
• Burning a child with hot water, a cigarette, or an iron
• Holding a child under water
• Tying up a child
• Severely shaking a baby

There are many injuries that a child can sustain from being abused and indicators that can be used to help determine if there is a suspicion of child abuse or neglect. However, these indicators and injuries can also be found on children who have not been abused and will have an appropriate explanation as to how the child sustained the injuries [25].

• Unexplained bruises, welts, human bite marks, bald spots
• Numerous bruises in various stages of healing
• Marks on many surfaces of the body
• Unexplained burns, especially cigarette or immersion burns
• Withdrawal or aggression – behavioral extremes
• Uncomfortable with physical contact
• Afraid to go home
• Dressed inappropriately for the weather
• Cringes when approached by an adult (fears getting hit)
• Overreacts to accidents such as spilling milk
• Does not want to talk about home life
• Extreme attachment to parents
• Extreme attentiveness to needs of parents

There are also some indicators of physical abuse that you see in an adult who has been physically abusive to the child or children [25].

• Contradictory statements about child’s injury
• Excessive anxiety about child’s behavior
• Labels child as a "problem"
• Says child makes up stories and that child should not be believed
• Verbally aggressive toward child

Bodily injury
Impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.

Physical Neglect

The definition of physical neglect that can be found in Pennsylvania law states that serious physical neglect by a perpetrator is the prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or the failure to provide the essentials of life including water, food, shelter, and adequate medical care, that endangers a child’s life or development or impairs the child’s functioning [22].

Some examples and signs of child neglect include [28]:

• Rejecting the child and not giving the child any love
• Not feeding the child
• Not dressing the child in proper clothing
• Not giving needed medical or dental care
• Leaving a child along for a long time or abandonment

Other signs that a child may exhibit if they are being neglected include [28]:

• Not going to school regularly
• The child may smell badly and be dirty
• The child tells you that there is no one at home to take care of them
• The adult in the child’s life does not seem to care about the child, is depressed, shows bizarre behavior, or uses alcohol or drugs

Some indicators that may be seen in children who suffer from serious physical neglect include [25]:

• Unattended medical needs
• Consistent lack of supervision
• Persistent hunger, poor hygiene or inappropriate dress
• Distended stomach or emaciated body
• Delayed physical development
• Substance abuse
• Regularly displays fatigue or listlessness
• Steals food or begs
• Habit disorders, such as sucking, rocking, etc.
• Passive or aggressive behavior extremes
• Neurotic traits such as sleep disorders or inhibition of play

There are also some indicators that could possibly be seen in parents who are or have seriously neglected their child and these include [25]:

• Disinterest in or rejection of child
• Deserting or avoiding child
• Threatening child, yelling, and/or screaming at child
• Ignoring medical problems of child
• Constant criticism of child, making negative comparison with other children
• Embarrassing children in public or making child feel ashamed or guilty
• Isolating child from society or normal friendships
• Placing child in dangerous situations
• Blaming child for situations not within child’s control
• Failing to meet child’s physical/emotional needs

Serious physical neglect

Any of the following when committed by a perpetrator that endangers a child's life or health, threatens a child's well-being, causes bodily injury or impairs a child's health, development or functioning:
(1) A repeated, prolonged or egregious failure to supervise a child in a manner that is appropriate considering the child's developmental age and abilities.
(2) The failure to provide a child with adequate essentials of life, including food, shelter or medical care.

Sexual Abuse or Exploitation

Pennsylvania Code defines child abuse as it relates to sexual abuse or exploitation as any of the following [22]:

• An act or failure to act by a perpetrator that causes sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child under the age of 18
• Any recent act, failure to act, or series of such acts or failures to act by a perpetrator that creates an imminent risk of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child under the age of 18.

The Pennsylvania Code defines sexual abuse or exploitation as any of the following [16]:

• The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of a child to engage in or assist another individual to engage in sexually explicit conduct, including, but not limited to, the following:
o Looking at the sexual or other intimate parts of a child or another individual for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire in any individual
o Participating in sexually explicit conversation either in person, by telephone, by computer, or by a computer-aided device for the purpose of sexual stimulation of gratification of any individual
o Actual or simulated sexual activity or nudity for the purpose of sexual stimulation of gratification of any individual
o Actual or simulated sexual activity for the purpose of producing visual depiction, including photography, videotaping, computer depicting, or filming

This paragraph does not include consensual activities between a child who is 14 years of age or older and another person who is 14 years of age or older and whose age is within four years of the child's age.
• As well as any of the following offenses committed against a child:
o Rape
o Statutory sexual assault
o Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
o Sexual assault
o Institutional sexual assault
o Aggravated indecent assault
o Indecent assault
o Indecent exposure
o Incest
o Prostitution
o Sexual abuse of children
o Unlawful contact with a minor
o Sexual exploitation of children

Child sexual abuse is defined as the involvement and coercion of children up to 14 years or adolescents who are 14-18 years of age in sexual activities that they, due to their developmental immaturity, are unable to fully comprehend and consciously consent to and which break family and social taboos [26].

The sexual abuse of a child can be committed by either a stranger or an individual who knows the child and includes any activity that the abuser does to the child to become sexually aroused. These acts can be manifested in different ways either with or without physical contact, including [27]:

• Touching a child’s genitals
• Rubbing the abuser’s genitals against a child’s skin or clothing
• Putting objects into a child’s anus or vagina
• Tongue kissing
• Oral sex
• Intercourse
• Exposing one’s own genitals
• Having a child pose for pornography
• Having a child look at pornography
• Masturbating in front of a child

There are indicators that may be seen in children who are the victims of sexual abuse or exploitation, including [25]:

• Pain or itching in the genital area
• Bruises or bleeding in external genitalia
• Frequent urinary or yeast infections
• Torn, stained or blood underclothing
• Venereal disease
• A child’s report or self-disclosure
• Sexual knowledge beyond what is natural for a child
• Preoccupation with their body
• Acting out sexual behavior
• Withdrawal, chronic depression
• Self-devaluation and lack of confidence
• Problems with bedtime or afraid to go to bed
• Bedwetting – especially if it begins in a child who has been dry

Indicators may also exist in parents who have sexually abused or exploited their child, including [25]:

• Poor sexual relationship between parents
• Frequent changes of adults in household
• Lack of supervision of child
• Parent related to child on adult level
• Parent is jealous of child’s relationship with others
• Parent is overly possessive of child

Emotional Abuse

According to Pennsylvania Code, the term ‘child abuse’ includes an act or a failure to act by a perpetrator that causes nonaccidental serious mental injury to a child who is under the age of 18.

The term ‘serious mental injury’ means a psychological condition as is diagnosed by a physician or a licensed psychologist, including the refusal of appropriate treatment, that [16]:

• Renders a child chronically and severely anxious, agitated, depressed, socially withdrawn, psychotic, or in reasonable fear that his or her life or safety is threatened
• Seriously interferes with a child’s ability to accomplish age-appropriate development and social tasks

As with the other types of child abuse, there are some indicators that may be present in children who have suffered from emotional abuse. These indicators include [25]:

• Consistent lack of supervision
• Persistent hunger, poor hygiene or inappropriate dress
• Distended stomach or emaciated body
• Delayed physical development
• Substance abuse
• Regularly displays fatigue or listlessness
• Steals food or begs
• Habit disorders (sucking, rocking, etc.)
• Passive or aggressive behaviors extremes
• Neurotic traits such as sleep disorders or inhibition of play

There are also indicators that parents may present who have emotionally abused their child, including [25]:

• Disinterest in or rejection of child
• Deserting or avoiding child
• Threatening child, yelling, and/or screaming at child
• Ignoring medical problems of child
• Constant criticism of child, making negative comparison with other children
• Embarrassing children in public or making child feel ashamed or guilty
• Isolating child from society or normal friendships
• Placing child in dangerous situations
• Blaming child for situations not within child’s control
• Failing to meet child’s physical/emotional needs

If a child is being emotionally abused, it may be difficult to see or to prove this type of abuse. However, emotional abuse often coincides when a child is also being physically or sexually abused. Some of examples of emotional abuse in a child can include [28]:

• Not providing the child with a safe environment. The child witnesses violence or severe abuse between parents or adults
• Threatening the child with violence or abandonment
• Constantly criticizing or blaming the child for problems
• The child’s parent or caregiver does not show concern for the child and refuses help from others for the child

There are also some signs that a child may show if they are being emotionally abused, including [28]:

• Problems in school
• Eating disorders, leading to weight loss or poor weight gain
• Emotional issues such as low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety
• Extreme behavior such as acting out, trying hard to please, aggressiveness
• Trouble sleeping
• Vague physical complaints

2. c. EXCLUSIONS TO CHILD ABUSE

The Pennsylvania Code also includes exclusions of specific acts and injuries from the definition of child abuse. The following are considered exclusions to the definition of child abuse [29]:

• Environmental factors: No child shall be deemed to be physically or mentally abused based on injuries that result solely from environmental factors, such as inadequate housing, furnishings, income, clothing and medical care, that are beyond the control of the parent or person responsible for the child’s welfare with whom the child resides. This subsection shall not apply to any child-care service as defined in this chapter, excluding an adoptive parent.
• Practice of religious beliefs: If, upon investigation, the county agency determines that a child has not been provided needed medical or surgical care because of sincerely held religious beliefs of the child’s parents or relative within the third degree of consanguinity and with whom the child resides, which beliefs are consistent with those of a bona fide religion, the child shall not be deemed to be physically or mentally abused. In such cases, the following shall apply:
      o The county agency shall closely monitor the child and the child’s family and shall seek court-ordered medical       intervention when the lack of medical or surgical care threatens the child’s life or long-term health.
      o All correspondence with a subject of the report and the records of the department and the county agency shall not       reference child abuse and shall acknowledge the religious basis for the child’s condition.
      o The family shall be referred for general protective services, if appropriate.
      o This subsection shall not apply if the failure to provide needed medical or surgical care causes the death of the child.
      o This subsection shall not apply to any child-care service as defined in this chapter, excluding an adoptive parent.
• Use of force for supervision, control and safety purposes: Subject to subsection (d), the use of reasonable force on or against a child by the child’s own parent or person responsible for the child’s welfare shall not be considered child abuse if any of the following conditions apply:
      o The use of reasonable force constitutes incidental, minor or reasonable physical contact with the child or other actions that are designed to maintain order and control.
      o The use of reasonable force is necessary:
             To quell a disturbance or remove the child from the scene of a disturbance that threatens physical injury to             persons or damage to property.
             To prevent the child from self-inflicted physical harm.
             For self-defense or the defense of another individual.
             To obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects or controlled substances or paraphernalia that             are on the child or within the control of the child.
• Rights of parents: Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to restrict the generally recognized existing rights of parents to use reasonable force on or against their children for the purposes of supervision, control and discipline of their children. Such reasonable force shall not constitute child abuse.
• Participation in events that involve physical contact with child: An individual participating in a practice or competition in an interscholastic sport, physical education, a recreational activity, or an extracurricular activity that involves physical contact with a child does not, in itself, constitute contact that is subject to the reporting requirements of this chapter.
• Child-on-child contact: Harm or injury to a child that results from the act of another child shall not constitute child abuse unless the child who caused the harm or injury is a perpetrator. Notwithstanding the previous statement, the following shall apply:
      o Acts constituting any of the following crimes against a child shall be subject to the reporting requirements of this       chapter:
             Rape
             Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse
             Sexual assault
             Aggravated indecent assault
             Indecent assault
             Indecent exposure
      o No child shall be deemed to be a perpetrator of child abuse based solely on physical or mental injuries caused to       another child in the course of a dispute, fight or scuffle entered into by mutual consent.
      o A law enforcement official who receives a report of suspected child abuse is not required to make a report to the       department if the person allegedly responsible for the child abuse is a nonperpetrator child.
• Defensive force: Reasonable force for self-defense or the defense of another individual shall not be considered child abuse.

It is important to remember that these exclusions are used by CPS when investigating reports of suspected child abuse and should not be considered exclusions by those who are making a report of child abuse.

2. c. i. EXCLUSION TO SUBSTANTIATING A REPORT VERSUS
EXCLUSION TO REPORTING

It is important to remember that the exclusions listed in the previous section apply only to the substantiation of child abuse, they do not apply to the requirements of reporting suspected child abuse. Exclusions to substantiating a report are made after an investigation. An important note to remember is that a mandated reporter’s role is to report suspected child abuse, not to make an investigation into the suspected child abuse.


14. "State Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect." Child Welfare Information Gateway. n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

15. "What is child abuse and neglect? How does my state define child abuse and neglect?" Children’s Bureau An Office of the Administration for Children & Families. 3 Aug. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

16. "State Statutes Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect." Child Welfare Information Gateway. n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

17. Center, Legislativate Data Processing. "Title 23." Pennsylvania General Assembly. The official website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly., 21 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

18. "Subchapter E. Child Abuse Reporting Requirements." The Pennsylvania Code. n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

19. Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau.

20. "Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting Training Frequently Asked Questions." Pennsylvania Department of Education. Apr. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

21. "Abuse & Neglect Definition." Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

22. "State statutes search - Pennsylvania." Child Welfare Information Gateway. n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

23. "Child Abuse Facts." Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

24. "Child abuse - physical." Medline Plus. 1 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

25. "Recognizing child abuse." Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

26. Dettmeyer RB, Verhoff MA, Schütz HF. Child sexual abuse. In: Forensic Medicine: Fundamentals and Perspectives. London: Springer; 2014: 309-319.

27. "Sexual abuse in children - what to know." Medline Plus. 1 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

28. "Child neglect and emotional abuse." Medline Plus. 1 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

29. "Exclusions from Child Abuse." The Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center. n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

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