While Federal legislation sets minimum standards for States that accept Federal funding, each State is responsible for defining child maltreatment in State law. Definitions of child abuse and neglect are typically located in two places within each State's statutory code:
- Civil statutes provide definitions of child maltreatment to guide individuals who are mandated to identify and report suspected child abuse and determine the grounds for intervention by State child protection agencies and civil courts. Locate definitions for your State by conducting a State Statutes Search on the Information Gateway website.
- Criminal statutes define those forms of child maltreatment that can subject an offender to arrest and prosecution in criminal courts.
Many States recognize four major types of maltreatment in their definitions, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse or neglect.