Juvenile Dependency Physical Abuse

Physical Abuse under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300(a)

Risk of serious physical harm. A petition based on physical abuse or risk of physical abuse to the child under Welfare and Institutions Code Section 300(a) must allege facts on which a juvenile court may find there is a substantial risk of serious nonaccidental future injury based on

a)The manner in which a less serious injury was inflicted;

b)A history of repeated infliction of injuries on the child or the child's siblings; or

c)A combination of actions by the parent indicating that the child is at risk of serious physical harm.

The statute implies that Parents "of common intelligence" can discern what injuries fall within the reach of section 300.

In the absence of unusual circumstances an allegation that a child has suffered serious physical harm inflicted nonaccidentally by a parent or guardian is sufficient to establish jurisdiction under 300(a). A parent's abuse of an unrelated child may place the parent's child at risk of abuse and justify jurisdiction under 300(a). A history of numerous occasions of physical abuse may show that a child is at risk of serious physical harm. A child need not have been actually harmed in order for the court to assume jurisdiction However, a finding of jurisdiction alone does not permit the juvenile court to remove a child from parental custody.

Here are a list of physical abuse that the Courts will deem abuse under Welfare and Institutions Code Section 300(a).

A history of pinching an infant in anger, when visible pinch marks result, along with evidence of a parent's indifference to the child's pain, has been held to support a finding of physical abuse.

Spanking. "Serious physical harm," as contemplated by Section 300(a), does not include reasonable age-appropriate spanking to the buttocks when there is no evidence of serious physical injury. Most States permit a parent has to reasonably discipline his or her child and the force used must be reasonable as well.

To determine what is reasonable and what is not the Courts have developed a reasonableness test such as: (1) whether the parent's conduct is genuinely disciplinary; (2) whether the punishment is warranted by the circumstances; and (3) whether the amount of punishment was reasonable based on the all the circumstances.

Next Bite marks and bruises. Are a common occurrence the Courts must determine if they are reasonable or not. Most of the time a bite mark or bruise raises a red flag to the Courts and will be found to be unreasonable under the totality of the circumstances. A court will of defer to a professional to assess the injuries such as the department of Social Service or Medical Doctors. They often can determine based on their professional experience if these bite marks are abuse under the Code Section.

An example of the type of injuries the court has found to be a violation of 300(a) are the presence of bruising on the face, bite marks on the shoulders and chest, and a swollen eye on a 2-year-old

drug exposure in the womb. A petition under Welfare and Institutions Code Section 300(a) allegation will be sustained if the child was exposed to drugs in the womb and the child was born under the influence of dangerous drugs

Domestic violence. The application of Welfare and Institutsion Code Section 300(a) is appropriate when a child suffers or is at substantial risk of suffering serious physical harm inflicted nonaccidentally by the parent due to exposure to a parent's domestic violence.

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