Child Abuse and Neglect

Many people have strong feelings about how children should be treated. However, in determining if a particular incident is child abuse or neglect, Children and Youth Services must use the legal definition of child abuse contained in the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (CPSL).

What is Child Abuse?

According to the Child Protective Services Law, “child abuse” means intentionally, knowingly or recklessly doing any of the following:
  • Causing bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.
  • Fabricating, feigning or intentionally exaggerating or inducing a medical symptom or disease which results in a potentially harmful medical evaluation or treatment to the child through any recent act.
  • Causing or substantially contributing to serious mental injury to a child through any act or failure to act or a series of such acts or failures to act.
  • Causing sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any act or failure to act.
  • Creating a reasonable likelihood of bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.
  • Creating a likelihood of sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any recent act or failure to act.
  • Causing serious physical neglect of a child.
  • Causing the death of the child through any act or failure to act.
Child abuse also includes certain acts in which the act itself constitutes abuse without any resulting injury or condition. These recent acts include any of the following:
  • Kicking, biting, throwing, burning, stabbing or cutting a child in a manner that endangers the child.
  • Unreasonably restraining or confining a child, based on consideration of the method, location or the duration of the restraint or confinement.
  • Forcefully shaking a child under one year of age.
  • Forcefully slapping or otherwise striking a child under one year of age.
  • Interfering with the breathing of a child.
  • Causing a child to be present during the operation of a methamphetamine laboratory, provided that the violation is being investigated by law enforcement.
  • Leaving a child unsupervised with an individual, other than the child's parent, who the parent knows or reasonably should have known was required to register as a Tier II or III sexual offender or has been determined to be a sexually violent predator or sexually violent delinquent.

What is Child Neglect?

Children rely on adults to help them meet their basic needs. In general, child neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs. General neglect of a child’s needs has the potential to harm to the child’s safety, functioning, or development. More serious neglect can endanger a child’s life or health, threaten a child’s well-being, cause bodily injury, or impair a child’s health, development, or functioning. In Pennsylvania, this serious physical neglect is considered a form of child abuse (see “What is Child Abuse”, above). Serious physical neglect includes a repeated, prolonged or egregious failure to supervise a child in a manner that is appropriate considering the child’s age, development, or functioning, and the failure to provide the essentials of life, including food, shelter, or medical care.

Reporting Child Abuse

Protection of children is the responsibility of everyone in the community. Anyone may report child abuse by calling:
  • ChildLine: 800-932-0313
  • Washington County Children and Youth Services: 724-228-6884 or toll-free at 888-619-9906
  • Mandated reporters may also report online at For more information about mandated reporters, see the Mandated Reporting page.
The identity of anyone making a report is kept confidential although it may be released to law enforcement officials or the district attorney’s office.
If the child you are concerned about is in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.