District of Columbia Child Abuse Laws

In the District of Columbia, child abuse or neglect includes physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of minors (as well as exploitation) and is taken seriously by the D.C. criminal justice system through it's child abuse laws. Specifically, child abuse and neglect occurs when a child is mistreated, resulting in injury or risk of harm.

District of Columbia Mandatory Reporting Requirements

Some people working in specific professions are called mandated reporters. D.C. law requires these individuals to report whenever they know or suspect a child is experiencing abuse or neglect. Because these people regularly work with children, they are often the first to see signs of maltreatment. See the chart below for a list of mandatory reporters.

D.C. also offers a free online training course for mandatory reporters.

How to Report Child Abuse

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, or is at risk of abuse or neglect, you should make a report to the Metropolitan Police Department, the 911 Emergency Call Center, or the Child and Family Services Agency .

The following chart lists the main provisions of the District of Columbia's child abuse laws, including mandatory reporters and sentencing. See Child Abuse Background and History to learn more.

Code Section §4-1301.02, et seq.
What Constitutes Child Abuse The infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child, including excessive corporal punishment, an act of sexual abuse, molestation, exploitation, or injury that results from exposure to drug-related activity.
Mandatory Reporting Requirement
  • Athletic coaches
  • Child care workers
  • Chiropractors
  • DC Parks and Recreation employees
  • Dentists
  • Domestic violence counselors
  • Human trafficking counselors
  • Humane officers (animal cruelty)
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Medical examiners
  • Mental health professionals
  • Nurses (LPNs and RNs)
  • People caring for or treating patients
  • Physicians
  • Psychologists
  • Public housing resident managers
  • School officials
  • Social service workers
  • Teachers
Basis of Report of Abuse/Neglect Know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused or neglected
Where to Report Suspected Abuse Department of social services or to law enforcement officer
Penalty for Failure to Report or False Reporting Any person required to make a report under the reporting laws who willfully fails to make such a report shall be fined no more than $1,000, imprisoned for no more than 180 days, or both.
Parental Discipline

The term ‘abused’ does not include parental discipline as long as the discipline is reasonable in manner and moderate in degree, and otherwise does not constitute cruelty. The term ‘discipline’ does not include:

  • Burning, biting, or cutting a child;
  • Striking a child with a closed fist;
  • Inflicting injury to a child by shaking, kicking, or throwing the child;
  • Nonaccidental injury to a child younger than 18 months;
  • Interfering with a child’s breathing;
  • Threatening a child with a dangerous weapon or using such a weapon on a child.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a District of Columbia criminal attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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District of Columbia Child Abuse Laws: Related Resources

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