Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect - Delaware

Date: May 2022

Physical Abuse

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, § 902; Tit. 10, § 901; Tit. 11, § 1100

'Abuse' or 'abused child' means that a person has care, custody, or control of a child and causes or inflicts any of the following:

  • Physical injury through unjustified force
  • Emotional abuse
  • Torture
  • Exploitation
  • Maltreatment or mistreatment

'Mistreatment' or 'maltreatment' are behaviors that inflict unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or suffering on a child without causing physical injury. Behaviors included will consist of actions and omissions, ones that are intentional, and ones that are unintentional.

The term 'abuse' means causing any physical injury to a child through unjustified force, torture, negligent treatment, sexual abuse, exploitation, maltreatment, mistreatment, or any means other than accident.

'Physical injury' to a child means any impairment of physical condition or pain.

'Serious physical injury' means physical injury that creates a risk of death; causes disfigurement, impairment of health, or loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ or limb; or causes the unlawful termination of a pregnancy without the consent of the pregnant female.


Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, § 902; Tit. 10, § 901

'Neglect' or 'neglected child' means that a person who is responsible for the care, custody, and/or control of the child and has the ability and financial means to provide for the care of the child does any of the following:

  • Fails to provide necessary care with regard to food, clothing, shelter, education, health, medical, or other care necessary for the child's emotional, physical, or mental health, or safety and general well-being
  • Abuses alcohol or a controlled substance chronically and severely, is not active in treatment for such abuse, and the abuse threatens the child's ability to receive care necessary for that child's safety and general well-being
  • Fails to provide necessary supervision appropriate for a child when the child is unable to care for their own basic needs or safety, after considering such factors as the child's age, mental ability, physical condition, the length of the caregiver's absence, and the context of the child's environment

Sexual Abuse/Exploitation

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, § 902; Tit. 10, § 901

The term 'abuse' includes 'human trafficking,' as defined in title 11, § 787.

'Abuse' or 'abused child' means that a person causes or inflicts sexual abuse on a child.

'Sexual abuse' means any act against a child that is described as a sex offense in title 11, § 761(h), including, but not limited to, unlawful sexual contact, child pornography, promoting child prostitution, and incest.

'Exploitation' means taking advantage of a child for unlawful or unjustifiable personal or sexual gain.

Emotional Abuse

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 10, § 901

The term 'abuse' includes emotional abuse. 'Emotional abuse' means threats to inflict undue physical or emotional harm, and/or chronic or recurring incidents of ridiculing, demeaning, making derogatory remarks, or cursing.


This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Standards for Reporting

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, § 903

A report is required when any person knows or in good faith suspects child abuse or neglect.

Persons Responsible for the Child

Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, § 902; Tit. 10, § 901

'Care, custody, and control' or 'those responsible for care, custody, and control' means a person or persons in a position of trust, authority, supervision, or control over a child. It may include the following:

  • A parent, guardian, or custodian
  • Other members of the child's family or household, meaning persons living together permanently or temporarily without regard to whether they are related to each other and without regard to the length of time or continuity of such residence and may include persons who previously lived in the household, such as paramours of a member of the child's household
  • Any person who, regardless of whether a member of the child's household, is defined as family or relatives
  • Persons temporarily responsible for the child's well-being or care such as a health-care provider, aide, teacher, instructor, coach, sitter, daycare or child care provider; any other person having regular direct contact with children through affiliation with a school, church, or religious institution, health-care facility, athletic or charitable organization; or any other organization whether such a person is compensated or acting as a volunteer
  • Any person who has assumed control of or responsibility for the child


Citation: Ann. Code Tit. 16, § 913

No child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the practices of a recognized church or religious denomination shall for that reason alone be considered neglected.