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What is the Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect in Illinois?

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Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 28, 2019

In this article we explain the definitions of child abuse and child neglect in Illinois according to the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (325 ILCS 5/) .  

In a previous article, How to Remove a Child From the Parent’s Custody, we explained how to report child abuse or neglect to the DCFS, what types of professionals are responsible for reporting abuse or neglect, the penalties for failing to report, and the process that occurs after child abuse or neglect are reported.  We also explained how to directly file a petition to have the State’s attorney remove an abused or neglected child from the parent’s custody.  

What is the definition of “child abuse” in Illinois?

Child abuse is defined by the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act as follows:

  • Inflicting physical injury which causes death, disfigurement, impairment of physical or emotional health, or loss or impairment of any bodily function (Accidents are excluded from the definition of abuse)
  • Causing or allowing such injury to be inflicted (as opposed to direct infliction of the injury).  
  • Creating a substantial risk of such injury;
  • Committing any sex offense against a child, or allowing such an offense to be committed;
  • Committing or allowing torture;
  • Inflicting excessive corporal punishment;
  • Inflicting any corporal punishment if you are working for an agency and prohibited from corporal punishment;
  • Genital mutilation;
  • Giving someone under 18 years old a controlled substance;
  • Involuntary servitude and sex trafficking.

Although there are many obvious specifics referenced in the statute, the definition of child abuse is quite broad as it includes causing or allowing to be caused “any impairment of physical or emotional health.”  The acts that rise to this level are determined on a case by case basis by courts based on case law precedent.  

What is the definition of “child neglect” in Illinois?

Child neglect in Illinois is defined as allowing any of the following conditions to occur:

  • Not receiving proper or necessary nourishment;
  • Not receiving medically indicated treatment or medical treatment necessary for well-being;
  • Not receiving adequate clothing or shelter;
  • Being subjected to an environment that creates a likelihood of harm to the child’s health or welfare if the likelihood of harm is a result of the blatant disregard of the child’s caretaker’s responsibilities;
  • Being abandoned by parents or caretakers without a proper plan of care;

The definition of a neglected child also includes newborns whose blood or urine contains any amount of certain controlled substances.  

The Act also carves out several instances that do not constitute abuse.  Leaving a child with an adult relative for any period of time does not constitute abandonment.  A child is not considered neglected or abused for the sole reason that the child’s caretaker depends on prayer alone to cure disease.  Finally, a child is not considered neglected solely because the child fails to attend school as required by law.

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What is the Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect in Illinois?

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