Child Abuse and Neglect
Child abuse is broadly defined in many states as any type of cruelty inflicted upon a child, including mental abuse, physical harm, neglect, and sexual abuse or exploitation. The specific crimes charged in instances of child abuse can include assault and battery.
Florida prohibits willful or threatened act that harms or is likely to cause harm of physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, abandonment, or emotional/mental injury. Statute contains exemptions for religion, poverty, or corporal punishment. In Florida, the harm must have been inflicted by non-accidental means. This includes intentional acts, actions that were careless (such as, allowing a known sexual offender or known abuser to be with a child alone), and acts of negligence (such as, leaving a child under a certain age at home alone). Also, the “harm” inflicted upon a child need not be actual, but may include “threats” or “risks of imminent harm”.
In addition to state child abuse laws, all states have child protective services (CPS) agencies that investigate reports of abuse and neglect of children in a home. CPS also serves to place children who have been abused or neglected in safer homes, either through adoption or foster care.
Here are some examples of what child abuse warnings may include:
- Physical warnings: unexplained burns, bites, bruises, and broken bones or parent’s philosophy of harsh physical discipline
- Emotional warnings: extreme behavior, delayed physical or emotional development, attempted suicide, and belittling by a parent or caregiver
- Sexual warnings: difficulty walking or sitting, reports of nightmares or bedwetting, sudden changes in appetite, sudden refusal to change in front of others or participate in gym activities
- Signs of neglect – frequent absences from school, obvious lack of medical or dental care, severe body odor, stays home alone
Mandatory Reporting Laws
Every state has mandatory reporting laws that require certain people to report apparent or suspected child abuse to a central authority, such as via a statewide toll-free hotline. The reports are meant to promote early intervention of child abuse.
Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or substitute for the advice of a lawyer.