Definitions of Abuse and Neglect


Terms related to abuse as defined by Washington County are as follows.

Failure to Thrive

A physician's diagnosis of failure to thrive due to parental deprivation

Mental Injury

  • An injury to the psychological capacity or emotional stability of a child as evidenced by an observable or substantial impairment in the child's ability to function within the normal range of performance and behavior with due regard to the child's culture
  • Behaviors to be considered are rejecting, isolating, terrorizing, ignoring, or corrupting the child.

Physical Abuse

An intentional (non-accidental) act resulting in a visible injury or no observable injury but the child reports pain in the head, stomach, torso, or genitalia as a result of being hit in that area or an act of reasonable discipline which results in injury except for an injury resulting from reasonable force to restrain (ref. MS609.379)

Sexual Abuse

  • Intentional touching of the victim's breasts, buttocks, inner thighs, groin, or primary genital area (or the victim touching the perpetrator in these areas) through the clothing or skin-to-skin contact
  • This would include a victim touching themselves or two victims touching each other at the direction of an adult.
  • This also includes children involved in prostitution or sexual performance.

Threatened Injury

A statement, overt act, condition, or status that represents a substantial risk of physical abuse or mental injury

Threatened Sexual Abuse

A statement, overt act, condition, or status that presents a substantial risk of sexual abuse


Terms related to neglect as defined by Washington County are as follows.

Failure to Protect

  • A person poses physical or sexual threat to a child and parent or caretaker does not act to protect the child
  • Parent or caretaker exposes the child to threatening or dangerous conditions or criminal activity
  • Any time the child participates in a criminal act

Failure to Provide for a Child's Special Needs

Reports of suicidal, anorexic or bulimic, or self-mutilating, etc., children are assessed when it is reported that the parent is not responding to degree of threat presented or is not cooperating with professional recommendations.

Failure to Provide Education

Elementary school-aged children who have demonstrated serious attendance problems and the school systems efforts to work effectively with the parents to correct the problem have been unsuccessful

Failure to Provide Medical Care

Failure to provide medical care refers to a continuing or consistent refusal or failure to seek, obtain, and follow through with a diagnosis and treatment of medical, dental, or mental health care for a health problem, symptom, or condition which, if untreated, could place the child in immediate or future jeopardy, incapacitation, or death.

Illegal Placement

A child 15 years old or younger living in a nonrelative, unlicensed home for more than 30 days in a 12-month period

Inadequate Clothing or Hygiene

  • The failure to provide and maintain adequate clothing which is appropriate to the climate and/or environmental conditions
  • Inappropriateness or condition of clothing presents a health or safety hazard

Inadequate Food

Child routinely lacks sufficient quantity or quality of food or child suffers from medically-diagnosed malnutrition or developmental lags

Inadequate Shelter

The periodic or continuing failure to provide adequate shelter and protection from weather and from environmental hazards in the dwelling and on this property which have potential for injury, illness, and/or disease.

Lack of Supervision

Failure to provide supervision, care, guidance, and/or protection, which results in the child being in situations beyond his ability to cope, at risk of physical harm, at risk of sexual and/or other exploitation

Prenatal Exposure to Controlled Substances

This includes withdrawal symptoms in the child at birth, a positive toxicology test performed on the mother or child during prenatal checks or at delivery, or mother admits to using chemicals.