The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was passed by Congress in 1974 and defines child abuse as not only physical abuse, but sexual and mental abuse, plus neglect. CAPTA supplies federal funding to states in order to prevent child abuse, and to help child abuse victims.
Being convicted of child abuse warrants different penalties depending on where you reside. In Alabama, for example, you may spend up to 10 years in prison for a conviction, or up to five years for a conviction in Alaska.
Different states have different definitions of "child" in regard to child abuse. In Colorado, for example, a child is anyone under the age of 16. The age cutoff rises to 18 in Alabama.
Most public and private officials have a legal obligation to report child abuse if they come in contact with an abused child, or if they have reasonable cause to believe a child has been abused. Public and private officials include police officers, school teachers, medical professionals and clergymen.
Child abuse is legally defined in different degrees. In Michigan, for example, when someone willingly causes serious physical or mental harm to a child, it's considered first degree abuse. Second degree child abuse occurs when serious harm is done as a result of a reckless act. Third degree child abuse is when the child is harmed, but not in a serious manner.
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