Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect - Massachusetts

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Physical Abuse

Citation: Ann. Laws. Ch. 119, §§ 29; 51A; Code of Mass. Regs. Tit. 110, § 2.00

'Serious bodily injury' means bodily injury that involves a substantial risk of death; extreme physical pain; protracted and obvious disfigurement; or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.

Child abuse or neglect is suspected when a child is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from either of the following:

  • Abuse inflicted upon the child that causes harm or substantial risk of harm to their health or welfare, including sexual abuse
  • Physical dependence upon an addictive drug at birth

In regulation: 'Abuse' means the nonaccidental commission of any act by a caregiver upon a child under age 18 that causes or creates a substantial risk of physical or emotional injury, or constitutes a sexual offense under the laws of the Commonwealth, or any sexual contact between a caregiver and a child under the care of that individual. Abuse is not dependent upon location (i.e., abuse can occur while the child is in an out-of-home or in-home setting).

'Physical injury' means any of the following:

  • Death
  • Fracture of a bone, a subdural hematoma, burns, impairment of any organ, and any other such nontrivial injury
  • Soft tissue swelling or skin bruising depending upon such factors as the child's age, circumstances under which the injury occurred, and the number and location of bruises
  • Addiction to a drug at birth
  • Failure to thrive

Neglect

Citation: Ann. Laws. Ch. 119, § 51A; Code of Mass. Regs. Tit. 110, § 2.00

Child neglect is suspected when a child is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from neglect, including malnutrition.

In regulation: 'Neglect' means failure by a caregiver, either deliberately or through negligence or inability, to take those actions necessary to provide a child with minimally adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, emotional stability, and growth, or other essential care. This definition is not dependent upon location (i.e., neglect can occur while the child is in an out-of-home or in-home setting).

Sexual Abuse/Exploitation

Citation: Ann. Laws. Ch. 119, §§ 21; 51A; Code of Mass. Regs. Tit. 110, § 2.00

A 'child requiring assistance' is a child between the ages of 6 and 18 who is a sexually exploited child. A 'sexually exploited child' is any person younger than age 18 who has been subjected to sexual exploitation when any of the following applies:

  • The child is the victim of the crime of sexual servitude, pursuant to chapter 265, § 50, or is the victim of the crime of sex trafficking, as defined in 22 U.S.C. § 7105.
  • The child engages, agrees to engage, or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee or in exchange for food, shelter, clothing, education, or care.
  • The child is a victim of the crime of inducing a minor into prostitution, regardless of whether the crime is prosecuted.
  • The child engages in common night walking or common streetwalking.

Child abuse or neglect is suspected when a child is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from either of the following:

  • Being a sexually exploited child
  • Being a human trafficking victim as defined by chapter 233, § 20M

In regulation: The term 'abuse' includes a sexual offense under the laws of the Commonwealth or any sexual contact between a caregiver and a child under the care of that individual.

Emotional Abuse

Citation: Code of Mass. Regs. Tit. 110, § 2.00

'Emotional injury' means an impairment to or disorder of the intellectual or psychological capacity of a child as evidenced by observable and substantial reduction in the child's ability to function within a normal range of performance and behavior.

Abandonment

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, § 39

'Abandonment' of an infant under age 10 occurs under the following circumstances:

  • A person leaves the child within or without any building.
  • A parent or other person who has a legal duty to care for the child, having made a contract for the child's board or maintenance, absconds or fails to perform such contract and for 4 weeks after such absconding or breach of contract, if of sufficient physical and mental ability, neglects to visit or remove the child or notify the department of their inability to support the child.

Standards for Reporting

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, § 51A

A report is required when a mandatory reporter who, in their professional capacity, has reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from suspected abuse or neglect.

Persons Responsible for the Child

Citation: Ann. Laws Ch. 119, § 51A; Code of Mass. Regs. Tit. 110, § 2.00

Responsible persons include the parent and any other person responsible for the child's care.

In regulation: The term 'caretaker' (caregiver) means:

  • A child's parent, stepparent, or guardian
  • Any household member entrusted with the responsibility for a child's health or welfare
  • Any other person entrusted with the responsibility for a child's health or welfare, whether in the child's home, a relative's home, a school setting, a daycare setting (including babysitting), a foster home, a group care facility, or any other comparable setting

The term 'caretaker' includes, but is not limited to, teachers, babysitters, school bus drivers, camp counselors, etc. The 'caretaker' definition is meant to be construed broadly and inclusively to encompass any person who is, at the time in question, entrusted with a degree of responsibility for the child. This specifically includes a caregiver who is a child (e.g., a babysitter who is under age 18).

Exceptions

Citation: Code of Mass. Regs. Tit. 110, § 2.00

It is not considered neglect when the inability to care for the child is due solely to inadequate economic resources or the existence of a handicapping condition.