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ABA Family Legal Guide

Family Law


Abuse and Neglect Laws

What persons and what types of actions are covered by child abuse laws?

It is a crime for adults to abuse children in their care. The term "adult" includes parents, foster parents, legal guardians, other adults in the home, family members, and baby-sitters. Supervising adults may not go beyond reasonable physical punishment. For example, adults who beat children so severely that they require medical treatment have violated these laws. Child abuse laws involve not only physical abuse (such as beatings or starvation), but include other types of cruelty, such as subjecting a child to extreme humiliation.

A person may be guilty of child abuse that he or she did not personally commit if that person had legal responsibility for the child and failed to protect the child from the abuser.

American Bar Association Family Legal Guide
Copyright © 2004 American Bar Association
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