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California family lawyerChild abuse is a serious offense in the state of California. Reports of suspected abuse will trigger an investigation that can result in an alleged abuser being placed on the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI). Inclusion in the CACI can affect a person’s employability in certain industries, their ability to volunteer for certain organizations, and their eligibility to adopt a child or act as a foster parent. When facing accusations of child abuse, it is important to understand what exactly constitutes abuse or neglect under California law.

The California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) (California Penal Code Article 2.5) defines the following acts as child abuse or neglect:

  • Injury - Physical harm or death inflicted non-accidentally upon a child.
  • Sexual abuse - Acts consisting of (1) sexual assault, including rape, statutory rape, incest, lewd or lascivious acts upon a child, or sexual contact with a child, or (2) sexual exploitation, including the depiction of children engaging in obscene acts, compensating children for performing sexual acts, accessing or distributing child pornography, or sexual trafficking.
  • Neglect - Negligent treatment or mistreatment of a child by a person responsible for their care, resulting in a threat to the child’s health or welfare. Neglect falls into two categories: (1) severe neglect, which consists of failing to protect a child from severe malnutrition or wilfully causing or permitting a child’s health or person to be in danger, and (2) general neglect, which consists of the failure to provide a child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, supervision, or medical care, even if a child is not physically injured as a result.
  • Child endangerment - Wilfully endangering a child’s health or safety, including inflicting or allowing unjustified physical or mental pain or permitting a child to be placed in a situation in which they are in danger of harm.
  • Unlawful corporal punishment - Willfully inflicting cruel or inhuman punishment or causing an injury which results in a traumatic condition. The law makes exceptions for the use of reasonable force to deal with a threat of physical injury or property damage at a public school, including acts of self-defense and actions taken to remove weapons or dangerous objects from a pupil’s possession.

California law defines a child as someone under the age of 18. Harm suffered in a conflict between minors is not considered child abuse and reasonable force used by a police officer who is carrying out their duties does not constitute child abuse or neglect.

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