Child Abuse and Neglect Definitions

Vermont law (33.V.S.A. § 4912) defines an abused or neglected child as one whose physical health, psychological growth and development or welfare is harmed or is at substantial risk of harm by the acts or omissions of his or her parent or other person responsible for the child's welfare.

An abused or neglected child also means a child who is sexually 
abused or at substantial risk of sexual abuse by any person.

Harm can occur by:

  1. Abandonment;
  2. Emotional maltreatment;
  3. Neglect;
  4. Physical injury; or
  5. Sexual abuse.

Risk of Harm means a significant danger that a child will suffer serious harm other than by accidental means, which would be likely to cause physical injury, neglect, emotional maltreatment, or sexual abuse.


Child: An individual under the age of 18.

Emotional Maltreatment: A pattern of malicious behavior, which results in impaired psychological growth and development.

Neglect: Failure to supply a child with adequate food, clothing, shelter or health care.

Physical Injury: Death, permanent or temporary disfigurement, or impairment of any bodily organ or function other than by accidental means.

Sexual Abuse: Any act or acts by any person involving sexual molestation or exploitation of a child including but not limited to incest, prostitution, rape, sodomy, or any lewd and lascivious conduct involving a child. Sexual abuse also includes the aiding, abetting, counseling, hiring, or procuring of a child to perform or participate in any photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, representation, or other presentation which, in whole or in part, depicts a sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse involving a child.

Substantial Child Endangerment: Conduct by an adult involving or resulting in sexual abuse, and conduct by a person responsible for a child's welfare involving or resulting in abandonment, child fatality, malicious punishment, or abuse or neglect that causes serious physical injury (33.V.S.A. § 4915).

Person Responsible for a Child's Welfare: Includes the child's parent; guardian; foster parent; any other adult residing in the child’s home who serves in a parental role; an employee of a public or private residential home, institution or agency; or other person responsible for the child's welfare while in a residential, educational or child care setting, including any staff person.