The Louisiana Children’s Code, established in 1992, provides definitions of abuse and neglect and contains laws pertaining to child abuse and neglect reports and investigations. The purpose of the Children’s Code is to protect children whose physical or mental health and welfare are substantially at risk of harm by physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional maltreatment or neglect and may be further threatened by the conduct of those responsible for their care and protection.
The Children’s Code authorizes the court to provide protection for children. While the state respects the bond between a parent or guardian and child, it asserts the right to intervene for the general welfare of the child when there is clear and present danger to the child’s health, welfare and safety.
Criminal laws are separate from the Children’s Code. Criminal laws provide for the prosecution of perpetrators in certain cases of child abuse involving sexual assault, physical abuse and homicide. The investigation into violations of criminal laws is the responsibility of law enforcement.
Abuse, as defined by law, is any one of the following acts which seriously endangers the physical, mental or emotional health of the child:
- The infliction, attempted infliction or as a result of inadequate supervision, the allowance of the infliction or attempted infliction of physical or mental injury upon the child by a parent or any other person.
- The exploitation or overwork of a child by a parent or any other person.
- The involvement of the child in any sexual act with a parent or any other person, or the aiding or toleration by the parent or the caretaker of the child’s sexual involvement with any other person or of the child’s involvement in pornographic displays, or any other involvement of a child in sexual activity constituting a crime under the laws of this state.
Neglect is the refusal or willful failure of a parent or caretaker to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, care, treatment,or counseling for any injury, illness or condition of the child, as a result of which the child’s physical, mental or emotional health is substantially threatened or impaired. The following are not considered neglect:
- The inability of a parent or caregiver to provide for a child due to inadequate financial resources shall not, for that reason alone, be considered neglect.
- When, in lieu of medical care, a child is being provided treatment in accordance with the tenets of a well-recognized religious method of healing which has a reasonable, proven record of success, the child shall not, for that reason alone, be considered neglected or maltreated. Nothing shall prohibit the court from ordering medical services for the child when there is substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare.
Emotional Maltreatment is behavior by a parent(s) such as the failure or inability to nurture, protect or provide appropriate guidance for the child to the extent that his/her emotional well being and functioning are seriously impaired.
Caretaker is any person legally obligated to provide or secure adequate care for a child. This includes: parent, tutor, guardian, legal custodian, foster parent, employee of a public or private day care or any other person providing a residence for the child.
Child is any person under age 18 who has not been emancipated either judicially or by marriage.
Reporting Abuse and Neglect
Certain individuals are mandated by law to report child abuse and neglect if they have reason to believe a child in their care is being abused or neglected. Mandatory reporters are in a position to identify children who are at risk from abuse and neglect. The Children’s Code names the following as mandatory reporters:
- health practitioners, including any individual who provides health care services;
- mental health/social service practitioners, including any person who provides mental health care or social service diagnosis, assessment, counseling or treatment;
- teaching or child care providers, including any person who provides training and supervision of a child;
- police officers/law enforcement officials; and
- commercial film and photographic print processors.
All other individuals are “permitted” reporters. Individuals who report in good faith are immune from prosecution. Reporting should be considered a request for an investigation into a suspected incident of abuse or neglect, not an accusation. Reporters can remain anonymous, and, if they chose to give their name, that information will remain confidential. Due to confidentiality laws and in order to protect the family’s right to privacy, no confidential information about cases can be shared.
If a report of abuse or neglect involves a perpetrator who is not legally deemed as a caretaker, it is law enforcement’s responsibility to conduct the investigation. If a report involves a perpetrator who is legally defined as a caretaker, it is the responsibility of Child Protection Services, within the Office of Community Services, to conduct the investigation.
Criteria for Acceptance of a Report
Not all reports of suspected child abuse or neglect are accepted for investigation. Reports must meet the following criteria:
- an alleged child victim under age 18,
- alleged abuse or neglect by a caretaker and
- the reporter has reason to believe that there is substantial risk of harm to the child’s welfare such as:
- abuse or neglect have already occurred and the child’s physical, mental or emotional health is seriously damaged by the action or inaction of the caretaker or
- the reporter has either observed first hand the abuse or neglect or has first hand knowledge of the abuse or neglect.
For more information on the Louisiana Children’s Code, the phone number for child protection in your area, or to talk with someone, please call the HELPLINE at 1. 800. 348. KIDS.
Source: Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana
Formerly Louisiana Council on Child Abuse