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Reporting Child Abuse

Sometimes, it is difficult to draw a line between child abuse and disciplining a child. Other times, it is not as difficult. Luckily, Texas outlines what it considers child abuse and the proper guidelines to report it.

What does Texas Consider Child Abuse?

The Texas Family Code is far from vague on what it defines as child abuse. Chapter 261 of the Family Code lists abuse as:

  1. mental or emotional injury to a child that results in an observable and material impairment in the child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning;

  2. causing or permitting the mental or emotional injury;

  3. actual physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child;

  4. failure to make reasonable effort to prevent action from another person that causes injury to the child;

  5. sexual conduct that harms the child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare;

  6. failure to make reasonable effort to prevent the sexual conduct;

  7. compelling or encouraging a child to engage in sexual conduct;

  8. encouraging, permitting, causing, or engaging in photographing, filming, or depicting of a child in obscene or pornographic content;

  9. harming the child through the use of a controlled substance;

  10. encouraging a child to use a controlled substance;

  11. causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing a sexual performance by a child;

  12. allowing the sexual trafficking of a child; or

  13. neglecting a child.

Reporting Child Abuse

Now that child abuse is defined, it is appropriate to discuss who is obliged to report it.

Chapter 261.101 of the Texas Family Code states dictates the persons required to report any suspected child abuse and at what time:

(a)  A person having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect by any person shall immediately make a report as provided by this subchapter.

(b)  If a professional has cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected or may be abused or neglected, or that a child is a victim of an offense under Section 21.11, Penal Code, and the professional has cause to believe that the child has been abused as defined by Section 261.001 or 261.401, the professional shall make a report not later than the 48th hour after the hour the professional first suspects that the child has been or may be abused or neglected or is a victim of an offense under Section 21.11, Penal Code.

The Code goes on to state that a professional may not delegate the duty to make a report to anyone else. It is important to note that under the Texas Family Code, there lies no exception to the duty to report for, “any individual whose personal communications may otherwise be privileged, including an attorney, a member of the clergy, a medical practitioner, a social worker, a mental health professional, an employee or member of a board that licenses or certifies a professional, and an employee of a clinic or healthcare facility that provides reproductive services.”

When in doubt, if there is any suspicion of child abuse, it must be reported to the appropriate authorities.