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Definition of Child Abuse

This section of the child protection policy clearly defines your organisation’s definition of child abuse and neglect. This section creates a clear and agreed understanding to support staff who may be unsure of their concerns.

Identification of Abuse and Neglect

All staff must be able to clearly identify the signs and symptoms of abuse, and have the confidence to take the appropriate action.

Examples of Policy Statements:
The Children, Young Persons and their Families Act, 1989, defines child abuse as "…the harming (whether physically, emotionally, sexually), ill-treatment, abuse, neglect, or deprivation of any child or young person”. The definitions set out below provide some indicators of abuse and these should not be seen as an exhaustive list or as a check list.

Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is a non-accidental act on a child that results in physical harm. This includes, but is not limited to, beating, hitting, shaking, burning, drowning, suffocating, biting, poisoning or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical abuse also involves the fabrication or inducing of illness.
Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effect on the child's emotional development. This can include a pattern of rejecting, degrading, ignoring, isolating, corrupting, exploiting or terrorising a child. It may also include age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. It also includes the seeing or hearing the ill treatment of others.

Sexual Abuse
Sexual Abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities (penetrative and non-penetrative, for example, rape, kissing, touching, masturbation) as well as non-contact acts such as involving children in the looking at or production of sexual images, sexual activities and sexual behaviours.
Staff should be aware of their 'duty of care' which precludes developing a sexual relationship with or grooming of a child. A sexual relationship between an adult and a child will always be wrong, unequal and unacceptable.

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or psychological needs, causing long term serious harm to the child's heath or development.  It may also include neglect of a child's basic or emotional needs. Neglect is a lack: of action, emotion or basic needs.

These definitions are sourced from How Can I Tell? published by Child Matters.
It may be useful to provide staff with further information to identify child abuse and neglect, either in the Appendix or by providing a reference guide such as How Can I Tell?