As part of our current strategic plan, the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund is working with its partners to consistently apply definitions of child abuse and neglect throughout the state. By having consistently applied definitions, we can better identify trends and see what kinds of prevention strategies are working in our state.
To this end, the first step in preventing child abuse and neglect is to understand what they are. We offer these definitions to help promote a greater awareness and recognition of child abuse and neglect so that you, too, can make an impact in a child’s life.
There are already some general definitions being applied. They come from state and federal laws. Others come from experts on child health and the prevention of violence.
Let’s start with a few basics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Child — A child is any person who is under age 18.
- Caregiver — A caregiver is a person who has responsibility for a child’s health and welfare, either permanently or temporarily. Caregivers can be primary or substitutes.
- Primary caregiver — Primary caregivers live with the child at least part-time. This could be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, stepparent, adoptive parent, foster parent, legal guardian, or an intimate partner. A primary caregiver doesn’t have to be a biological relative of the child.
- Substitute caregiver — A substitute caregiver might live with the child, or might not. A substitute caregiver must have temporary responsibility for the child, and could include people like teachers, coaches, babysitters, relatives, pastors or clergy, daycare staff, or others.
In the simplest possible terms, the CDC categorizes abuse as “acts of commission,” or things someone does that cause harm to a child. Neglect is categorized as “acts of omission,” or things someone fails to do that cause harm to a child. However, actions can also be abuse if they threaten harm, or have the potential to cause harm.
Harm can be complicated to think about. It’s not always as simple as seeing bruises. Sometimes harm isn’t immediate and sometimes it isn’t transparent, but it always has an effect on a child — sometimes for a lifetime.
- Harm can be physical, like bruises, cuts, or broken bones.
- It also can be emotional, like post-traumatic stress disorder.
- It also can be cognitive, which means it affects a child’s intellectual development.
Types of Abuse
One thing that’s important to know is that abuse and neglect can take many forms. These definitions come from the Child Welfare Information Gateway and are drawn from different legal definitions from states around the country. Abuse can be:
In some states, when a parent exposes a child to drug activity or substance abuse, that can also be defined as a form of child abuse. In Ohio, some examples of this might include when a child has access to illegal drugs or needles in a home; a parent provides a child with illegal drugs or uses illegal substances with a child; or when an infant tests positive for substances at birth or shows signs of withdrawal or is diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Forms of Neglect
Kinds of failures that might be considered neglect can include not providing a child with:
- Medical care
It’s also considered neglect in many states to abandon a child. Abandonment is often defined as happening when the parent’s identity or location is unknown, or the parent has left the child in a situation that exposes the child to harm, or has left the child with no contact and no support.
Abandonment is also legally defined as a form of neglect in Ohio.
Definitions Under Ohio Law
In Ohio, terms related to child abuse and neglect are specifically defined in the Ohio Administrative Code, Section 5101: 2-1-01.
Some key definitions include:
Abused Child — pursuant to section 2151.031 of the Ohio Revised Code, includes any child who:
(a) Is the victim of sexual activity as defined under Chapter 2907. of the Ohio Revised Code, where such activity would constitute an offense under Chapter 2907. of the Ohio Revised Code except that the court need not find that any person has been convicted of the offense in order to find that the child is an abused child.
(b) Is endangered as defined in section 2919.22 of the Ohio Revised Code, except that the court need not find that any person has been convicted under section 2919.22 of the Ohio Revised Code in order to find that the child is an abused child.
(c) Exhibits evidence of any physical or mental injury or death, inflicted other than by accidental means, or an injury or death which is at variance with the history given of it. Except as provided in this definition, a child exhibiting evidence of corporal punishment or other physical disciplinary measure by a parent, guardian, custodian, person having custody or control, or person in loco parentis of a child is not an abused child under this definition if the measure is not prohibited under section 2919.22 of the Ohio Revised Code.
(d) Because of the acts of his parents, guardian, or custodian, suffers physical or mental injury that harms or threatens to harm the child's health or welfare.
(e) Is subjected to out-of-home care child abuse.
Neglected child — pursuant to Chapter 2151.03. of the Ohio Revised Code includes any child:
(a) Who is abandoned by the child's parents, guardian, or custodian.
(b) Who lacks adequate parental care because of the faults or habits of the child's parents, guardian, or custodian.
(c) Whose parents, guardian, or custodian neglects the child or refuses to provide proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical or surgical care or treatment, or other care necessary for the child's health, morals, or well-being.
(d) Whose parents, guardian, or custodian neglects the child or refuses to provide the special care made necessary by the child's mental condition.
(f) Who, because of the omission of the child's parents, guardian, or custodian, suffers physical or mental injury harming or threatening to harm the child's health or welfare.
(g) Who is subject to out-of-home care child neglect.
(h) Nothing in Chapter 2151.03. of the Ohio Revised Code shall be construed as subjecting a parent, guardian, or custodian of a child to criminal liability when solely in the practice of religious beliefs, the parent, guardian, or custodian fails to provide adequate medical or surgical care or treatment for the child.
Abandoned Child — pursuant to section 2151.011 of the Ohio Revised Code, means a child who is presumed abandoned when the parents of the child have failed to visit or maintain contact with the child for more than ninety days, regardless of whether the parents resume contact with the child after that period of ninety days.
Caregiver — a person providing the direct day-to-day care of a child during his placement in substitute care.
Caretaker — a person with whom the child resides or the person responsible for the child's daily care. This includes, but is not limited to, the parent, guardian, custodian or out-of-home care setting employee.
Child —any person under 18 years of age or a mentally or physically handicapped person under 21 years of age.
Danger — the likelihood of serious harm to a child precipitated by one or more currently active safety threats and arising from insufficient protective capacities.
Harm (for the purpose of utilizing the "Comprehensive Assessment and Planning Model - Interim Solution") — the consequence of maltreatment and refers to the nature of the injury or trauma affecting the child.
Infant — any child from birth to 18 months of age.
Mental injury — any behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorder in a child caused by an act or omission that is described in section 2919.22 of the Ohio Revised Code and is committed by the parent or other person responsible for the child's care.
Out-of-home care child abuse — pursuant to section 2151.011 of the Ohio Revised Code, means any of the following when committed by a person responsible for the care of a child in out-of-home care:
(a) Engaging in sexual activity with a child in the person's care.
(b) Denial to a child, as a means of punishment, of proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical care, or other care necessary for a child's health.
(c) Use of restraint procedures on a child that cause injury or pain.
(d) Administration of prescription drugs or psychotropic medication to the child without the written approval and ongoing supervision of a licensed physician.
(e) Commission of any act, other than by accidental means, that results in any injury to or death of the child in out-of-home care or commission of any act by accidental means that results in an injury to or death of a child in out-of-home care and that is at variance with the history given of the injury or death.
Out-of-home care child neglect — pursuant to section 2151.011 of the Ohio Revised Code, means any of the following when committed by a person responsible for the care of a child in out-of-home care:
(a) Failure to provide reasonable supervision according to the standards of care appropriate to the age, mental and physical condition, or other special needs of the child.
(b) Failure to provide reasonable supervision according to the standards of care appropriate to the age, mental and physical condition, or other special needs of the child, that results in sexual or physical abuse of the child by any person.
(c) Failure to develop a process for all of the following:
(i) Administration of prescription drugs or psychotropic drugs for the child.
(ii) Assuring that the instructions of the licensed physician who prescribed a drug for the child are followed.
(iii) Reporting to the licensed physician who prescribed the drug all unfavorable or dangerous side effects from the use of the drug.
(d) Failure to provide proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical care, or other individualized care necessary for the health or well-being of the child.
(e) Confinement of the child to a locked room without monitoring by staff.
(f) Failure to provide ongoing security for all prescription and nonprescription medication.
(g) Isolation of a child for a period of time when there is substantial risk that the isolation, if continued, will impair or retard the mental health or physical well-being of the child.
Out-of-home care setting — is a detention facility, shelter facility, foster home, pre-finalized adoptive placement, certified foster home, approved foster care, organization, certified organization, child care center, type A family day-care home, type B family day-care home, group home, institution, state institution, residential facility, residential care facility, residential camp, day camp, hospital, medical clinic, children's residential center, public or nonpublic school, or respite home that is responsible for the care, physical custody, or control of a child.
Safety threat — means an act or condition that has the capacity to seriously harm any child.
Serious harm — means the actual or threatened consequence of an active safety threat that may be significantly affected by a child's degree of vulnerability and includes one or more of the following:
(a) Is life-threatening.
(b) Substantively retards the child's mental health or development.
(c) Produces substantial physical suffering, disfigurement or disability, whether temporary or permanent.