Title 40 (Human Services), Chapter 40-11 (Abused and Neglected Children)
The public policy of this state is: to protect children whose health and welfare may be adversely affected through injury and neglect; to strengthen the family and to make the home safe for children by enhancing the parental capacity for good child care; to provide a temporary or permanent nurturing and safe environment for children when necessary; and, for these purposes, to require the mandatory reporting of known or suspected child abuse and neglect, investigation of those reports by a social agency, and provision of services, where needed, to the child and family.
When used in this chapter and unless the specific context indicates otherwise:
(1) “Abused or neglected child” means a child whose physical or mental health or welfare is harmed, or threatened with harm, when his or her parent or other person responsible for his or her welfare:
(i) Inflicts, or allows to be inflicted, upon the child physical or mental injury, including excessive corporal punishment; or
(ii) Creates, or allows to be created, a substantial risk of physical or mental injury to the child, including excessive corporal punishment; or
(iii) Commits, or allows to be committed, against the child an act of sexual abuse; or
(iv) Fails to supply the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, though financially able to do so or offered financial or other reasonable means to do so; or
(v) Fails to provide the child with a minimum degree of care or proper supervision or guardianship because of his or her unwillingness or inability to do so by situations or conditions such as, but not limited to: social problems, mental incompetency, or the use of a drug, drugs, or alcohol to the extent that the parent or other person responsible for the child’s welfare loses his or her ability or is unwilling to properly care for the child; or
(vi) Abandons or deserts the child; or
(vii) Sexually exploits the child in that the person allows, permits, or encourages the child to engage in prostitution as defined by the provisions in § 11-34.1-1 et seq., entitled “Commercial Sexual Activity”; or
(viii) Sexually exploits the child in that the person allows, permits, encourages, or engages in the obscene or pornographic photographing, filming, or depiction of the child in a setting that, taken as a whole, suggests to the average person that the child is about to engage in, or has engaged in, any sexual act, or that depicts any such child under eighteen (18) years of age performing sodomy, oral copulation, sexual intercourse, masturbation, or bestiality; or
(ix) Commits, or allows to be committed, any sexual offense against the child as sexual offenses are defined by the provisions of chapter 37 of title 11, entitled “Sexual Assault,” as amended; or
(x) Commits, or allows to be committed, against any child an act involving sexual penetration or sexual contact if the child is under fifteen (15) years of age; or if the child is fifteen (15) years or older, and (1) Force or coercion is used by the perpetrator, or (2) The perpetrator knows, or has reason to know, that the victim is a severely impaired person as defined by the provisions of § 11-5-11, or physically helpless as defined by the provisions of § 11-37-1(6).
(2) “Child” means a person under the age of eighteen (18).
(3) “Child protective investigator” means an employee of the department charged with responsibility for investigating complaints and referrals of child abuse and neglect and institutional child abuse and neglect.
(4) “Children’s advocacy center (CAC)” means a community-based organization that is a member of the Rhode Island chapter of children advocacy centers and an accredited member (or working toward accreditation) of the National Children’s Alliance.
(5) “Department” means department of children, youth and families.
(6) “Educational program” means any public or private school, including boarding schools, or any home-schooling program.
(7) “Healthcare provider” means any provider of healthcare services involved in the delivery or care of infants or care of children.
(8) “Institution” means any private or public hospital or other facility providing medical or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, and care.
(9) “Institutional child abuse and neglect” means situations of known or suspected child abuse or neglect where the person allegedly responsible for the abuse or neglect is a foster parent or the employee of a public or private residential childcare institution or agency; or any staff person providing out-of-home care or situations where the suspected abuse or neglect occurs as a result of the institution’s practices, policies, or conditions.
(10) “Law enforcement agency” means the police department in any city or town or the state police.
(11) “Mental injury” includes a state of substantially diminished psychological or intellectual functioning in relation to, but not limited to, such factors as: failure to thrive; ability to think or reason; control of aggressive or self-destructive impulses; acting-out or misbehavior, including incorrigibility, ungovernability, or habitual truancy; provided, however, that the injury must be clearly attributable to the unwillingness or inability of the parent or other person responsible for the child’s welfare to exercise a minimum degree of care toward the child.
(12) “Person responsible for child’s welfare” means the child’s parent; guardian; any individual, eighteen (18) years of age or older, who resides in the home of a parent or guardian and has unsupervised access to a child; foster parent; an employee of a public or private residential home or facility; or any staff person providing out-of-home care (out-of-home care means child day care to include family day care, group day care, and center-based day care). Provided, further, that an individual, eighteen (18) years of age or older, who resides in the home of a parent or guardian and has unsupervised access to the child, shall not have the right to consent to the removal and examination of the child for the purposes of § 40-11-6.
(13) “Physician” means any licensed doctor of medicine, licensed osteopathic physician, and any physician, intern, or resident of an institution as defined in subsection (8).
(14) “Probable cause” means facts and circumstances based upon as accurate and reliable information as possible that would justify a reasonable person to suspect that a child is abused or neglected. The facts and circumstances may include evidence of an injury, or injuries, and the statements of a person worthy of belief, even if there is no present evidence of injury.
(15) “Shaken-baby syndrome” means a form of abusive head trauma, characterized by a constellation of symptoms caused by other than accidental traumatic injury resulting from the violent shaking of or impact upon an infant or young child’s head.
40-11-3: Duty to report–Deprivation of nutrition or medical treatment.
(a) Any person who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that any child has been abused or neglected as defined in § 40-11-2, or has been a victim of sexual abuse by another child, shall, within twenty-four (24) hours, transfer that information to the department of children, youth and families, or its agent, which shall cause the report to be investigated immediately. As a result of those reports and referrals, protective social services shall be made available to those children in an effort to safeguard and enhance the welfare of those children and to provide a means to prevent further abuse or neglect. The department shall establish and implement a single, statewide, toll-free telephone to operate twenty-four (24) hours per day, seven (7) days per week for the receipt of reports concerning child abuse and neglect, which reports shall be electronically recorded and placed in the central registry established by § 42-72-7. The department shall create a sign, using a format that is clear, simple, and understandable to students, that contains the statewide, toll-free telephone number for posting in all public and private schools in languages predominately spoken in the state, containing pertinent information relating to reporting the suspicion of child abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse. This sign shall be available to the school districts electronically. The electronically recorded records, properly indexed by date and other essential, identifying data, shall be maintained for a minimum of three (3) years; provided, however, any person who has been reported for child abuse and/or neglect, and who has been determined not to have neglected and/or abused a child, shall have his or her record expunged as to that incident three (3) years after that determination. The department shall continuously maintain a management-information database that includes all of the information required to implement this section, including the number of cases reported by hospitals, healthcare centers, emergency rooms, and other appropriate healthcare facilities.
(b) The reporting shall include immediate notification of the department of any instance where parents of an infant have requested deprivation of nutrition that is necessary to sustain life and/or who have requested deprivation of medical or surgical intervention that is necessary to remedy or ameliorate a life-threatening medical condition, if the nutrition or medical or surgical intervention is generally provided to similar nutritional, medical, or surgical conditioned infants, whether disabled or not.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to prevent a child’s parents and physician from discontinuing the use of life-support systems or nonpalliative treatment for a child who is terminally ill where, in the opinion of the child’s physician exercising competent medical judgment, the child has no reasonable chance of recovery from the terminal illness despite every, appropriate medical treatment to correct the condition.
40-11-3.1: Duty to report death of child due to child abuse or neglect.
Any person required to report under the provisions of this title, who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has died as a result of child abuse or neglect shall immediately transfer that information to the department or its agent who shall cause the report to be investigated immediately. Upon receipt of the report, the department or its agent shall immediately transfer the information to the local law enforcement agency or the state police as well as to the office of the medical examiner. The office of the medical examiner shall investigate the report and communicate its preliminary findings, orally within seventy-two (72) hours, and in writing within seven (7) working days to the appropriate law enforcement agency, to the department and, if the person who made the report is an employee or a member of the staff of a hospital, to the hospital. The office of the medical examiner shall also communicate its final findings and conclusions, with the basis therefore, to the same parties within sixty (60) days.
40-11-3.2: False reporting of child abuse and neglect.
Any person who knowingly and willfully makes, or causes to be made, to the department a false report of child abuse or neglect shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
40-11-3.3: Duty to report–Sexual abuse of a child in an educational program.
(a) Any person who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that any child has been the victim of sexual abuse by an employee, agent, contractor, or volunteer of an educational program as defined in § 40-11-2 shall, within twenty-four (24) hours, transfer that information to the department of children, youth and families, or its agent; provided, however, that if the person mandated to report is an employee, agent, contractor, or volunteer of an educational program as defined in § 40-11-2, they shall immediately notify the principal, headmaster, executive director, or other person in charge of the educational program, or his or her designated agent. The principal, headmaster, executive director, or other person in charge of the educational program, or his or her designated agent, shall be responsible for all subsequent notification to the department of children, youth and families, or its agent in the manner required by this section. In the case of a public educational program, the principal, headmaster, executive director, or other person in charge of the educational program, or his or her designated agent, shall also notify the superintendent of the public educational program. Any transferred information shall include the name, title, and contact information for every employee, agent, contractor, or volunteer of the educational program who is believed to have direct knowledge of the allegation. Nothing in this section is intended to require more than one report from any educational program for a specific incident.
(b) In order to provide guidance and consistency in reporting, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education shall promulgate policies and procedures for the creation and handling of reports made by the principal, headmaster, executive director, or other person in charge of the educational program, or his or her designated agent in order to carry out the intent of this section.
(c) The department of children, youth and families, or its agent shall immediately forward the report to state police and local law enforcement, and shall initiate an investigation of the allegations of sexual abuse if it determines that the report meets the criteria for a child protective services investigation. As a result of those reports and referrals, the department shall refer those children to appropriate services and support systems in order to provide for their health and welfare. In the event the department substantiates the allegations of sexual abuse against an employee, agent, contractor, or volunteer of an educational program, the department shall immediately notify the state police; the local law enforcement agency; the department of education; the educational program; the person who is the subject of the investigation; and the parent, or parents, of the child who is alleged to be the victim of the sexual abuse of the department’s findings.
(d) The director of the department of children, youth and families is authorized to promulgate rules and regulations pertaining to the investigation of the allegation of sexual abuse in order to carry out the intent of this section.
(e) For purposes of this section, “reasonable cause to know or suspect” means that it is objectively reasonable for a person to entertain a suspicion, based upon facts that could cause a reasonable person in a like position, drawing, when appropriate, on the person’s training and experience, to suspect child abuse. “Reasonable cause to know or suspect” does not require certainty that child sexual abuse has occurred nor does it require a specific medical indication of child sexual abuse; any “reasonable cause to know or suspect” is sufficient.
40-11-3.4: Immunity from liability.
Any person participating in good faith in making a report pursuant to this chapter shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise be incurred or imposed. Any participant shall have the same immunity with respect to participation in any judicial proceeding resulting from the report.
40-11-6: Report by physicians and healthcare providers of abuse or neglect.
(a) When any physician, duly certified registered nurse practitioner, or other healthcare provider is involved in the delivery or care of infants born with, or identified as being affected by, substance abuse or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure or a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or has cause to suspect that a child brought to him or her, or coming to him or her, for examination, care, or treatment, is an abused or neglected child as defined in this chapter, or when he or she determines that a child under the age of twelve (12) years is suffering from any sexually transmitted disease, he or she shall report the incident or cause a report thereof to be made to the department as provided in subsection (b).
(b) An immediate oral report shall be made by telephone or otherwise, to both the department and law enforcement agency, and shall be followed by a report, in writing, to the department and law enforcement agency explaining the extent and nature of the abuse or neglect the child is alleged to have suffered.
(c) The department, upon receipt of such a report by a person other than a physician or duly certified registered nurse practitioner alleging that a child has been physically abused, shall investigate the report, and if the investigation reveals evidence of injury or that the child has been the victim of sexual abuse, the department shall have the child examined by a licensed physician or duly certified registered nurse practitioner. Any child protective investigator shall, with or without the consent of the parent or other person responsible for the child’s welfare, have the right to remove the child from the place where the child may be to secure the examination required by this subsection. Upon completion of the examination, it shall be mandatory for the physician or duly certified registered nurse practitioner to make a written report of his or her findings to the department.
(d) The department shall promulgate rules and regulations to implement the provisions of this section.
40-11-6.1: Penalty for failure to report or perform required act.
Any person, official, physician, or institution required by this chapter to report known or suspected child abuse or neglect or to perform any other act who knowingly fails to do so or who knowingly prevents any person acting reasonably from doing so shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be subject to a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500) or imprisonment for not more than one year or both. In addition, any person, official, physician, or institution who knowingly fails to perform any act required by this chapter or who knowingly prevents another person from performing a required act shall be civilly liable for the damages proximately caused by that failure.
Year of enactment1979