Under state laws, it is a criminal offense for parents and legal guardians to fail to meet children’s basic needs, including food, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, and supervision. Such failure constitutes child neglect.
Child abuse laws make it a crime for adults to abuse children in their care. Such adults include parents, legal guardians, other adults in the home, and baby-sitters. Supervising adults may not go beyond reasonable physical punishment. For example, adults who beat children so severely that the children require medical treatment have violated these laws. Child abuse laws cover not only physical abuse and sexual abuse, but also emotional abuse, such as subjecting a child to extreme public humiliation.
A person may be guilty of child abuse that he or she did not personally commit if that person had legal responsibility for the child and failed to protect the child from the abuser.