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Child Abuse Laws in Pennsylvania

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Merit Career Development > Child Abuse Prevention Training > Child Abuse Laws in Pennsylvania


Child Abuse Laws in Pennsylvania


Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect


To better understand this issue and to view it across states, see the Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect: Summary of State Laws publication (PDF - 665 KB)


Physical Abuse
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6303


Child abuse shall mean any of the following:

  • Any recent act or failure to act by a perpetrator that causes nonaccidental serious physical injury to a child under age 18
  • Any recent act, failure to act, or series of such acts or failures to act by a perpetrator that creates an imminent risk of serious physical injury to a child under age 18

Serious bodily injury means bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ.

Serious physical injury means an injury that causes a child severe pain or significantly impairs a child's physical functioning, either temporarily or permanently.

Nonaccidental means an injury that is the result of an intentional act that is committed with disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk.


Neglect
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6303


Child abuse includes serious physical neglect by a perpetrator constituting prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or the failure to provide essentials of life, including adequate medical care, that endangers a child's life or development or impairs the child's functioning.


Sexual Abuse
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6303


Child abuse shall mean any of the following:

  • An act or failure to act by a perpetrator that causes sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child under age 18
  • Any recent act, failure to act, or series of such acts or failures to act by a perpetrator that creates an imminent risk of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child under age 18

Sexual abuse or exploitation means the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in or assist any other person to engage in any sexually explicit conduct or any simulation of any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing:

  • Any visual depiction, including photographing, videotaping, computer depicting, or filming of any sexually explicit conduct
  • The rape, sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, molestation, incest, indecent exposure, prostitution, statutory sexual assault, or other form of sexual exploitation of children


Emotional Abuse
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6303


Child abuse includes an act or failure to act by a perpetrator that causes nonaccidental serious mental injury to a child under age 18.

Serious mental injury means a psychological condition, as diagnosed by a physician or licensed psychologist, including the refusal of appropriate treatment, that:

  • Renders a child chronically and severely anxious, agitated, depressed, socially withdrawn, psychotic, or in reasonable fear that the child's life or safety is threatened
  • Seriously interferes with a child's ability to accomplish age-appropriate development and social tasks


Abandonment

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.


Standards for Reporting
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6303


A report is required when a parent's recent act or failure to act causes serious injury or imminent risk of serious injury to the child.


Persons Responsible for the Child
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6303


A perpetrator is a person who has committed child abuse and is:

  • A parent of a child
  • A person responsible for the welfare of a child
  • An individual residing in the same home as a child
  • A paramour of a child's parent


Exceptions
Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6303


No child shall be deemed to be physically or mentally abused based on injuries that result solely from environmental factors that are beyond the control of the parent or person responsible for the child's welfare, such as inadequate housing, furnishings, income, clothing, and medical care.

If, upon investigation, the county agency determines that a child has not been provided needed medical or surgical care because of seriously held religious beliefs of the child's parents, and such beliefs are consistent with those of a bona fide religion, the child shall not be deemed to be physically or mentally abused. The county agency shall closely monitor the child and shall seek court-ordered medical intervention when the lack of medical or surgical care threatens the child's life or long-term health.


Click here to view information about the penalties for failing to report and false reporting of child abuse in Pennsylvania


To view child abuse laws for another state, select the state in the drop-down menu.


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NEED MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION?

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