Pennsylvania’s definition of child abuse has changed as a result of recent amendments to our Child Protective Services Law (CPSL). Effective December 31, 2014, the expanded definition of child abuse lowers the standard of what will be considered child abuse under CPSL.
So, what is child neglect?
- Physical (e.g, failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision)
- Medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)
- Educational (e.g., failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs)
- Emotional (e.g., inattention to a child’s emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs)
Abandonment is now defined in many states as a form of neglect. In general, a child is considered to be abandoned when the parent’s whereabouts are unknown, the child has been left alone in circumstances where the child suffers serious harm, or the parent has failed to maintain contact with the child for a specific period of time.
Parental Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is an element of child abuse and neglect. Circumstances that are considered abuse or neglect include:
- Prenatal exposure of a child to harm due to the mother’s use of an illegal drug or other substance
- Manufacture of methamphetamine in the presence of a child
- Selling, distributing, or giving illegal drugs or alcohol to a child
- Use of a controlled substance by a caregiver that impairs the caregiver’s ability to adequately care for the child
Emotional abuse (or psychological 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 therefore, child protective services may not be able to intervene without evidence of harm or mental injury to the child. Emotional abuse is almost always present when other types of maltreatment are identified.