When does discipline become child abuse? The law in Texas is not so clear
Parents are expected to care for their children in a way that will keep them safe and provide for the children’s basic needs. However, everyone also parents their children a little differently and under Texas law, that is considered okay. The fact that some parents physically discipline their children has led many people to question the difference between corporal discipline and child abuse. Every so often, a news story emerges that raises this question once again. So, how does Texas define child abuse?
The Definition of Child Abuse in Texas
The legal statute defining child abuse in Texas is quite vague. According to the Family Code, child abuse is defined as any injury that substantially harms a child, or an actual threat of substantial harm that results from physical injury. This legal statute specifically excludes injuries that result from an accident, or from reasonable discipline administered by a parent, guardian, or conservator. However, in regard to discipline, it should still not expose the child to a significant risk of harm.
When Discipline Becomes Abuse
Although child abuse is clearly illegal in Texas, parents are allowed to discipline their child in a way that they see fit. There are times though, when this discipline is considered abuse.
Some of those signs include leaving marks or bruises on a child, injuring a child to the point where they need medical attention, or when the behavior is ongoing and constitutes a pattern. Discipline should never impair a child’s physical, mental, or emotional health and development. If it does, the statute clearly defines this as child abuse.
Reporting Child Abuse
While child abuse is illegal under Texas law, so is failing to report it when abuse is observed by another person. Under the law, individuals must report abuse to the Texas Department of Family Protective Services and Child Protective Services (DFPS). This can be done through their website or their telephone hotline.
This law applies to everyone, but it is even stricter for professionals. Teachers, nurses, doctors, daycare workers, and others that work with children or may observe signs of abuse are required to report it to the DFPS within 48 hours. When professionals do not do this, they may be charged with a misdemeanor. Professionals are also not allowed to ask someone else to make the report for them.
When making this report, no one has to prove that the abuse or neglect actually occurred. They must only suspect that it is happening. Many times a person reports abuse when the child has not actually been harmed.
Have You Been Charged with Child Abuse? Our Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help
Being charged with child abuse is devastating. In many cases, a parent was simply disciplining their child and another person thought they saw something that was never there. If you are facing child abuse charges, call our Angleton criminal defense lawyers at Scott M. Brown & Associates at (979) 318-3075 or contact us online. We can build you a solid defense so that you can hold onto your freedom, and your child. Get in touch with us today to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys.