Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect - Rhode Island

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Physical Abuse

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-2

'Abused and/or neglected child' means a child whose physical or mental health or welfare is harmed or threatened with harm when their parent or other person responsible for their welfare does any of the following:

  • Inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the child physical or mental injury, including excessive corporal punishment
  • Creates or allows to be created a substantial risk of physical or mental injury to the child, including excessive corporal punishment

'Shaken baby syndrome' means a form of abusive head trauma characterized by a constellation of symptoms caused by other than accidental traumatic injury resulting from the violent shaking and/or impact upon an infant or young child's head.

Neglect

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-2

The term 'abused and/or neglected child' includes a child whose physical or mental health or welfare is harmed or threatened with harm when the child's parent or other person responsible for their welfare does any of the following:

  • Fails to supply the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, although financially able to do so or offered financial or other reasonable means to do so
  • Fails to provide the child with a minimum degree of care or proper supervision or guardianship because of their unwillingness or inability to do so by situations or conditions such as, but not limited to, social problems, mental incompetency, or the use of a drug, drugs, or alcohol to the extent that the parent or other person responsible for the child's welfare loses their ability or is unwilling to properly care for the child

Sexual Abuse/Exploitation

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-2

The term 'abused and/or neglected child' includes a child whose physical or mental health or welfare is harmed or threatened with harm when their parent or other person responsible for their welfare does any of the following:

  • Commits or allows to be committed against the child an act of sexual abuse
  • Sexually exploits the child in that the person allows, permits, or encourages the child to engage in prostitution
  • Sexually exploits the child in that the person allows, permits, encourages, or engages in the obscene or pornographic photographing, filming, or depiction of the child in a setting that, taken as a whole, suggests to the average person that the child is about to engage in or has engaged in any sexual act or that depicts any such child under age 18 performing sodomy, oral copulation, sexual intercourse, masturbation, or bestiality
  • Commits or allows to be committed any sexual offense against the child
  • Commits or allows to be committed against any child an act involving sexual penetration or sexual contact if the child is under age 15; or if the child is age 15 or older, and (1) force or coercion is used by the perpetrator or (2) the perpetrator knows or has reason to know that the victim is a severely impaired person or physically helpless

Emotional Abuse

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-2

'Mental injury' includes a state of substantially diminished psychological or intellectual functioning related to, but not limited to, such factors as failure to thrive, ability to think or reason, control of aggressive or self-destructive impulses, acting out, or misbehavior, which includes incorrigibility, ungovernability, or habitual truancy. The injury must be clearly attributable to the unwillingness or inability of the parent or other person responsible for the child's welfare to exercise a minimum degree of care toward the child.

Abandonment

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-2

The term 'abused and/or neglected child' includes a child whose physical or mental health or welfare is harmed or threatened with harm when their parent or other person responsible for their welfare abandons or deserts the child.

Standards for Reporting

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-3

A report is required when any person has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been abused or neglected.

The reporting requirement shall include immediate notification of the department of any instance in which the parents of an infant have requested deprivation of nutrition that is necessary to sustain life and/or who have requested deprivation of medical or surgical intervention that is necessary to remedy or ameliorate a life-threatening medical condition, if the nutrition or medical or surgical intervention is generally provided to infants with similar nutritional, medical, or surgical conditions, whether disabled or not.

Persons Responsible for the Child

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-2

'Person responsible for child's welfare' includes any of the following:

  • The child's parent or guardian
  • Any individual, age 18 or older, who resides in the home of a parent or guardian and has unsupervised access to a child
  • A foster parent
  • An employee of a public or private residential home or facility
  • Any staff person providing out-of-home care

Exceptions

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-3(c)

Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to prevent a child's parents and physician from discontinuing the use of life-support systems or nonpalliative treatment for a child who is terminally ill when, in the opinion of the child's physician exercising competent medical judgment, the child has no reasonable chance of recovery from the terminal illness despite every, appropriate medical treatment to correct the condition.