Any defense attorneys will tell you that child abuse and neglect can range from leaving a child unattended in a vehicle to severely beating a child. Child abuse and the abuse of a vulnerable adult are treated in much the same way, with both crimes reportable to the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).
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DCF has determined that a child is a born, unmarried person younger than 18 years old, not emancipated by order of the court. DCF views a vulnerable adult as someone 18 years or older with a disability or a person weak or frail due to old age.
A caretaker can be a parent (even if a minor), legal custodian, adult living in the same house or making regular visits, adult entrusted to the child or has taken responsibility for the child, or another child who is a volunteer or employee of a school, daycare facility, summer camp or similar agency or facility and given the responsibility for caring for a child.
A responsible person caring for a vulnerable adult is considered a caregiver for that person, or a person entrusted to care for the vulnerable adult, or an individual who understands or should understand that the vulnerable adult is not capable of giving consent.
Child abuse is a willful or threatened act. The act must result in sexual, physical or mental injury or harm that causes the child’s health – physical, mental or emotional – to be spoiled.
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Child neglect is the depriving of a child of supervision, clothing, food, medical treatment or shelter. It can also mean allowing the child to live in and environment that causes the child’s emotional, mental or physical health to be impaired or if there is danger of impairment from such conditions. If there is financial inability to properly provide for the child, it will not be considered abuse, unless you have been offered services for relief and have denied those services.
Additionally, exploitation of a vulnerable adult is the deceiving of a vulnerable adult or use of intimidation towards that person for personal gain. This includes situations regarding the use of personal funds, assets and/or property of the vulnerable adult for the caretaker’s personal gain.
Reference 2014 Florida Statutes
The legislature, recognizing that the elderly and disabled are in need of protection, enacted legislation designed to prevent the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of elderly persons and disabled adults. The Adult Protective Services Act, among other things, establishes a central abuse registry and tracking system, requires mandatory reporting of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of disabled adults or elderly persons, and authorizes investigations and interventions, and confidentiality of reports and records. The Act requires the Department of Children and Family Services to maintain a central abuse hotline to receive reports of abuse and provides for criminal penalties for failing to report suspected abuse.
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The legislature further enacted laws to penalize the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult. Pursuant to these provisions, an “elderly person” is defined as a person 60 years of age or older who is suffering from the infirmities of aging as manifested by advanced age or organic brain damage, or other physical, mental, or emotional dysfunctioning to the extent that the ability of the person to provide adequately for his or her own care or protection is impaired. A “disabled adult” is defined as a person 18 years of age or older who suffers from a condition of physical or mental incapacitation due to a developmental disability, organic brain damage, or mental illness, or who has one or more physical or mental limitations that restrict the person’s ability to perform the normal activities of daily living.
A person suffering from one or more physical or mental limitations that restricts his or her ability to perform normal activities of daily living qualifies as a “disabled adult” within the meaning of the neglect of elderly or disabled adult statute.
REFERENCE FLORIDA STATUTES Chapter 825 ABUSE, NEGLECT, AND EXPLOITATION OF ELDERLY PERSONS AND DISABLED ADULTS