Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect Pennsylvania

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Statute: 23 PCSA § 6303


Recent act or failure to act



Religious exemption

Categories of Maltreatment Defined in Statute

Physical abuse


Sexual abuse

Sexual exploitation

Emotional/mental injury

Categories of Maltreatment Not Defined in Statute


Full Text of Statute


23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6303 (West, WESTLAW through Act 2002-237)

'Child' includes a newborn.

'Child abuse' shall mean any of the following:

Any recent act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes nonaccidental serious physical injury to a child under 18 years of age;

An act or failure to act by a perpetrator which
causes nonaccidental serious mental injury to, or
sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of, a child
under 18 years of age;

Any recent act, failure to act or series of such
acts or failures to act by a perpetrator which
creates an imminent risk of serious physical
injury to, or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation
of, a child under 18 years of age;

Serious physical neglect by a perpetrator
constituting prolonged or repeated lack of
supervision or the failure to provide essentials
of life, including adequate medical care, which
endangers a child's life or development or
impairs the child¿s functioning.

'Serious bodily injury' means bodily injury, which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ.

'Serious mental injury' means a psychological condition, as diagnosed by a physician or licensed psychologist, including the refusal of appropriate treatment, that:

Renders a child chronically and severely anxious, agitated, depressed, socially withdrawn, psychotic or in reasonable fear that the child's life or safety is threatened; or

Seriously interferes with a child's ability to
accomplish age-appropriate development and social

'Serious physical injury' means an injury that:

Causes a child severe pain; or

Significantly impairs a child's physical
functioning, either temporarily or permanently.

'Sexual abuse or exploitation' means the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement or coercion of any child to engage in or assist any other person to engage in any sexually explicit conduct or any simulation of any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing:

Any visual depiction, including photographing, videotaping, computer depicting, or filming, of
any sexually explicit conduct; or

The rape, sexual assault, involuntary deviate
sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault,
molestation, incest, indecent exposure,
prostitution, statutory sexual assault or other
form of sexual exploitation of children.


23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6303(b)(2)-(3) (West, WESTLAW through Act 2002-237)

No child shall be deemed to be physically or mentally abused based on injuries that result solely from environmental factors that are beyond the control of the parent or person responsible for the child's welfare, such as:

Inadequate housing;



Clothing; and

Medical care.

If, upon investigation:

The county agency determines that a child has not been provided needed medical or surgical care because of seriously held religious beliefs of the child's parents, guardian or person responsible for the child's welfare;

Which beliefs are consistent with those of a bona
fide religion, the child shall not be deemed to
be physically or mentally abused.

The county agency shall closely monitor the child
and shall seek court-ordered medical intervention
when the lack of medical or surgical care
threatens the child's life or long-term health.

In cases involving religious circumstances, all
correspondence with a subject of the report and
the records of the Department of Public Welfare
and the county agency shall not reference 'child
abuse' and shall acknowledge the religious basis
for the child¿s condition, and the family shall
be referred for general protective services, if
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