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California Child Abuse Laws

California child abuse laws fall within the Penal Code, as they do in other states. The crime is broadly defined to include any type of cruelty inflicted on a child, such as mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual assault or exploitation, and neglect. Charges for physical child abuse often include assault and battery. Child abuse laws also include provisions requiring certain adults with access to children (such as teachers and doctors) to report signs of abuse.

California Statutes

State child abuse laws can vary depending on your jurisdiction. Here is a general overview of California child abuse laws, mandatory reporting requirements, and penalties for failure to report.

Code Section

Penal Code §11164, et seq.

What Constitutes Abuse

Sexual abuse or exploitation as listed by incident in 11165.1; neglect; willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment; any physical injury inflicted other than by accidental means.

Mandatory Reporting Required By

Health practitioner, child visitation monitors, fire fighter, animal control officer, humane society officer, district attorney, school employees, film processors, clergy, social workers, day care workers, police department employees, administrators or employees of public or private youth organizations or day camps.

Basis of Report of Abuse/Neglect

Knows or reasonably suspects or observes child abuse.

To Whom Reported

To a child protective agency (police or sheriff's department, county probation department, or country welfare department).

Penalty for Failure to Report or False Reporting

Misdemeanor; up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000

Child abuse occurs whenever a parent or caretaker physically, emotionally, or sexually abuses, neglects, or abandons a child. While parents have the right to raise and discipline their children as they see fit, laws regarding child abuse seek to protect children from serious harm. Child abuse in the United States is more common than many people think: Each year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made, involving almost 6 million children. Every day 4 or 5 children are killed by child abuse or neglect. For more information on what you can do if you suspect child abuse, see the Where to Get Help for Child Abuse article or check the resources available in your state.

Related Resources for Child Abuse Laws

The physical, psychological, and emotional effects of child abuse can be severe, and child abuse cases are best handled by the authorities. To find out more general information about this topic, you can visit FindLaw’s child abuse section. To get legal help with an existing or possible case of child abuse, you can contact a family law attorney in California.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified attorney.
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