What is child abuse?

Date published: 
20 Apr 2017

By Katherine B. Wiens M.Ed, M.S. and Micheal Blackford / CASA: A Voice for Children Inc. board members

The Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers these guidelines for recognizing child abuse and neglect:

Physical abuse is non-accidental physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), or otherwise harming a child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child. Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child.

Sexual abuse includes activities by a parent or caregiver such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.

Emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance. Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove and is almost always present when other types of maltreatment are identified.

Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect may be physical, medical, educational, or emotional. Physical neglect is failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision. Medical neglect is failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment. Educational neglect is failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs

Type of professionals this is aimed at: 
Specialist Expert
Language(s) of the self study materials: 
Pidgin English

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