Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect - Texas

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Physical Abuse

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.001

'Abuse' means the following acts or omissions by a person:

  • Physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child, including an injury that is at variance with the history or explanation given and excluding an accident or reasonable discipline by a parent, guardian, or conservator that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm
  • Failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent an action by another person that results in physical injury or substantial harm to the child
  • The current use by a person of a controlled substance in a manner or to the extent that the use results in physical, mental, or emotional injury to a child
  • Causing, expressly permitting, or encouraging a child to use a controlled substance
  • Knowingly causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing a child to be trafficked in a manner punishable as an offense under § 20A.02(a)(5)-(8), Penal Code, or the failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent a child from being trafficked in a manner punishable as an offense under any of those sections
  • Forcing or coercing a child into a marriage

'Exploitation' means the illegal or improper use of a child or of the resources of a child for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain by an employee, volunteer, or other individual working under the auspices of a facility or program.

Neglect

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.001

'Neglect' means an act or failure to act by a person responsible for a child's care, custody, or welfare that evidences the person's blatant disregard for the consequences of the act or failure to act and results in harm to the child or creates an immediate danger to the child's physical health or safety. The term includes leaving of child in a situation in which the child would be exposed to a substantial risk of physical or mental harm, without arranging for necessary care for the child, and the demonstration of an intent not to return by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator of the child.

'Neglect' also means the following acts or omissions by the person responsible for a child's care, custody, or welfare:

  • Placing a child in, or failing to remove a child from, a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child's level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities and that results in bodily injury or a substantial risk of immediate harm to the child
  • Failing to seek, obtain, or follow through with medical care for a child, with the failure resulting in or presenting a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, or bodily injury or with the failure resulting in an observable and material impairment to the growth, development, or functioning of the child
  • Failing to provide a child with food, clothing, or shelter necessary to sustain the life or health of the child, excluding failure caused primarily by financial inability, unless relief services had been offered and refused
  • Placing a child in, or failing to remove the child from, a situation in which the child would be exposed to a substantial risk of sexual conduct harmful to the child
  • Placing a child in, or failing to remove the child from, a situation in which the child would be exposed to acts or omissions that constitute sexual abuse
  • Permitting the child to return to the child's home without arranging for the necessary care for the child after the child has been absent from the home for any reason, including having been in residential placement or having run away
  • A negligent act or omission by an employee, volunteer, or other individual working under the auspices of a facility or program, including failure to comply with an individual treatment plan, plan of care, or individualized service plan, that causes or may cause substantial emotional harm or physical injury to, or the death of, a child served by the facility or program

Sexual Abuse/Exploitation

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.001

The term 'abuse' includes the following acts or omissions by a person:

  • Sexual conduct harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare, including conduct that constitutes the offense of continuous sexual abuse of young child (§ 21.02, Penal Code), indecency with a child (§ 21.11, Penal Code), sexual assault (§ 22.011, Penal Code), or aggravated sexual assault (§ 22.021, Penal Code)
  • Failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct harmful to a child
  • Compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct (as defined by § 43.01, Penal Code), including conduct that constitutes an offense of trafficking of persons (§ 20A.02(a)(7) or (8), Penal Code), prostitution (§ 43.02(b), Penal Code), or compelling prostitution (§ 43.05(a)(2), Penal Code)
  • Causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing the photographing, filming, or depicting of the child if the person knew or should have known that the resulting photograph, film, or depiction of the child is obscene (as defined by § 43.21, Penal Code) or pornographic
  • Causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing a sexual performance by a child (as defined by § 43.25, Penal Code)
  • Knowingly causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing a child to be trafficked in a manner punishable as an offense under § 20A.02(a)(5), (6), (7), or (8), Penal Code, or the failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent a child from being trafficked in a manner punishable as an offense under any of those sections

Emotional Abuse

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.001

The term 'abuse' includes the following acts or omissions by a person:

  • Mental or emotional injury to a child that results in an observable and material impairment in the child's growth, development, or psychological functioning
  • Causing or permitting a child to be in a situation in which the child sustains a mental or emotional injury that results in an observable and material impairment in the child's growth, development, or psychological functioning

'Severe emotional disturbance' means a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder of sufficient duration to result in functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits a person's role or ability to function in family, school, or community activities.

Abandonment

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.001

The term 'neglect' includes leaving a child in a situation where the child would be exposed to a substantial risk of physical or mental harm, without arranging for necessary care for the child, and the demonstration of intent not to return by a parent, guardian, or conservator of the child.

Standards for Reporting

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.101

A report is required when there is reasonable cause to believe that the child's physical or mental health has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect.

Persons Responsible for the Child

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.001

'Person responsible for a child's care, custody, or welfare' means a person who traditionally is responsible for a child's care, custody, or welfare, including the following:

  • A parent, guardian, conservator, or foster parent of the child
  • A member of the child's family or household, meaning persons living together in the same dwelling, without regard to whether they are related to each other, and includes persons who previously lived in the household
  • A person with whom the child's parent cohabits
  • School personnel or a volunteer at the child's school
  • Personnel or a volunteer at a public or private child care facility that provides services for the child or at a public or private residential institution or facility where the child resides
  • An employee, volunteer, or other person working under the supervision of a licensed or unlicensed child care facility, including a family home, residential child care facility, employer-based daycare facility, or shelter daycare facility

Exceptions

Citation: Fam. Code § 261.001

Abuse does not include reasonable discipline by a parent that does not expose the child to substantial risk of harm.

'Neglect' does not include the refusal by a person responsible for a child's care, custody, or welfare to permit the child to remain in or return to the child's home resulting in the placement of the child in the conservatorship of the department if the following apply:

  • The child has a severe emotional disturbance.
  • The person's refusal is based solely on the person's inability to obtain mental health services necessary to protect the safety and well-being of the child.
  • The person has exhausted all reasonable means available to the person to obtain the needed mental health services.

Neglect also does not include a decision by a person responsible for a child's care, custody, or welfare to do any of the following:

  • Obtain an opinion from more than one medical provider relating to the child's medical care
  • Transfer the child's medical care to a new medical provider
  • Transfer the child to another health-care facility

Neglect does not include allowing the child to engage in independent activities that are appropriate and typical for the child's level of maturity, physical condition, developmental abilities, or culture.