Definitions of Child Abuse and Maltreatment
Generally, the term abuse encompasses the most serious harms committed against children. An "abused child" is a child whose parent or other person legally responsible for his/her care inflicts upon the child serious physical injury, creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury, or commits an act of sex abuse against the child. Not only can a person be abusive to a child if they perpetrate any of these actions against a child in their care, they can be guilty of abusing a child if they allow someone else to do these things to that child.
Child Abuse is defined in law at Section 412 of the Social Services Law and at Section 1012 of the Family Court Act.
Maltreatment refers to the quality of care a child is receiving from those responsible for him/her. Maltreatment occurs when a parent or other person legally responsible for the care of a child harms a child, or places a child in imminent danger of harm by failing to exercise the minimum degree of care in providing the child with any of the following: food, clothing, shelter, education or medical care when financially able to do so. Maltreatment can also result from abandonment of a child or from not providing adequate supervision for the child. Further, a child may be maltreated if a parent engages in excessive use of drugs or alcohol such that it interferes with their ability to adequately supervise the child.
Neglect is defined in law at Section 1012 of the Family Court Act. Maltreatment is defined in law at Section 412 of the Social Services Law. Although the terms are not synonymous in the law, for the purposes of this website, the terms neglect and maltreatment are used interchangeably.