What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse and neglect includes physically or emotionally hurting a child, sexually molesting a child, failing to provide proper care for a child, and depriving a child of support, medical care and affection.

Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act states that a child is in need of protection in the following circumstances:

  • a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering physical harm, inflicted by a caregiver or caused by the caregiver’s failure to adequately care for the child
  • there is a pattern of neglect in supervising a child
  • a child has been sexually molested by a caregiver or by another person where the caregiver knows or should know of the possibility of sexual molestation and fails to protect the child
  • a child requires medical treatment and the caregiver does not provide the treatment
  • a child has suffered emotional harm resulting from the actions of the caregiver
  • a child suffers from a mental, emotional or developmental condition and the caregiver does not provide or is unable to consent to treatment
  • a child has been abandoned
  • a child’s parent has died or is unable to care for the child and has not made adequate provision for the child’s care
  • a child is in a residential placement and the parent refuses or is unable or unwilling to resume the child’s care and custody
  • a child, who is less than twelve years old, seriously injures another person or causes serious damage to another person’s property, and treatment is necessary and the caregiver does not provide or is unable to consent to treatment.

The causes of abuse

It’s impossible to define all the causes of child abuse and neglect but we do know that parenting is a big responsibility that at times, when combined with other life stresses, can become too much.

Parenting can be overwhelming when parents have little support from family or friends, when parents are very young and are not prepared for the responsibility, or when they do not know what to do when their child misbehaves.

The most important job we ever have is that of parenting, but we are rarely taught how to be a good parent.

Often the experiences we had as children and the techniques used to raise us are the tools we use when parenting our own children. Some abusive adults were themselves mistreated as children.

Common life stresses, such as a major illness or financial problems, may also provide the impetus for an abusive situation if combined with a lack of knowledge of parenting, child development or child behaviour management.

A substance abuse or mental health problem can further impair the ability to parent in a consistently positive manner.