Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect


Harm or threatened harm to a child's health or welfare can occur through, among other things, non-accidental physical or mental abuse, sexual abuse or attempted sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or attempted sexual exploitation or neglect. See California Penal Code Section 11165.1-11165.6 for detailed definition.

Physical Abuse: intentional acts or omissions that cause, or fail to prevent, physical injury to a child.

Emotional or Mental Abuse: intentional actions or omissions that have an actual or likely negative impact on a child’s emotional and behavioral development, including those resulting from persistent or severe emotional mistreatment.

Sexual abuse: may be perpetrated by an adult or another child and includes the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement or coercion of any child to engage in, or having a child assist any other person to engage in, any sexual assault including rape, incest, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts, oral copulation, penetration of genital or anal opening by a foreign object and child molestation. Sexual abuse also includes any activity that is meant to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of the perpetrating adult or child. Sexual abuse may or may not involve touching.

Sexual exploitation: includes allowing, permitting or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution and allowing, permitting, encouraging or engaging in the obscene or pornographic photographing, filming or depicting of a child for commercial purposes.

Neglect: a severe or persistent failure to provide for a child’s physical, emotional or basic needs. However, it is not “neglect” if the actual or suspected injuries result solely from economic or environmental factors that are beyond the caretaker or parent’s control, such as inadequate housing, income, clothing and medical care.