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Arkansas Department
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P.O. Box 1437, Slot S569
700 Main Street
Little Rock, AR 72203-1437

Division of Children and Family
Phone (501) 682-1001

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Legal Child Discipline

Children are valued and cared for in Arkansas. The state has passed laws concerning child discipline in order to protect children from physical abuse and neglect. As a parent or caretaker, it is important to know the law in Arkansas.  According to state law, the word "abuse" does not include some physical discipline of a child.

Arkansas laws have made certain actions illegal. For any person entrusted with , including parents or guardians, it is illegal to use extreme or repeated cruelty. In general, the law prohibits physical, psychological, or sexual abuse of any child.

 Physical Abuse 

As a parent or guardian, you are morally and legally responsible for the welfare of your child. Please remember the following actions are considered unreasonable, as written in state law (this list does not include all punishable actions; for more info, call 501-683-2042):

  • Striking a child on the face or head
  • Shaking a child under age three
  • Shaking any child in a way that causes physical injury
  • Striking a child with a closed fist
  • Throwing, kicking, burning, biting, or cutting a child
  • Interfering with a child’s breathing
  • Threatening a child with a deadly weapon
  • Pinching, striking, or biting a child’s genitals
  • Causing greater than passing pain or leave more than minor temporary marks
  • Tying a child to a fixed or heavy object or binding or tying a child’s limbs together
  • Giving a child or permitting a child to consume or inhale a poisonous or noxious substance not prescribed by a physician that can interfere with normal functions
  • Giving a child or permitting a child to consume or inhale a substance that can alter their mood, if it has not been prescribed by a physician, including but not limited to: marijuana; alcohol (except alcohol used in a recognized and established religious ceremony); narcotics; inappropriate over-the-counter drugs or even appropriate over-the-counter drugs if a person purposely administers an overdose to a child and the child suffers negative consequences from the overdose or inappropriate over-the-counter drug
  • Exposing a child to chemicals that have the capacity to interfere with normal functions, such as chemicals used or generated during the making of methamphetamine
  • Causing a child to believe they have an illness they do not have (Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy) if the incident is reported and confirmed by medical staff or a medical facility


Children depend on adults to provide for them. Parents or guardians are held responsible by law to take care of their children’s basic needs. If the caretakers do not see that children’s basic needs are met, this is called neglect. State law declares the following actions to be neglect (this list does not include all punishable actions; for more info, call 501-682-8541):

  • Failure to prevent abuse if the caretaker has reason to believe the child is being abused

  • Failure or refusal to provide food, clothing, shelter, and education for the child

  • Failure to provide necessary medical treatment, unless the responsible person is financially unable to do so

  • Failure to protect the child from abandonment, abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, neglect, or even another parent or guardian


To ensure the safety and welfare of children, adults are held responsible for their actions towards children.

If a parent or caretaker abuses or neglects a child, there are serious consequences, including fines and jail time.

Endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree is a Class D felony. This occurs when someone purposely deserts a child less than 10 years old, creating a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury. A Class D felony could result in a $10,000 fine and a up to 6 years in prison.

Endangering the welfare of a child in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor. This could mean a $1,000 fine and up to 1 year in prison.

NOTE: The Division of Children and Family Services strives to keep all of its publications such as this one up-to-date. However, while this brochure may be accurate at the time of printing, the Division of Children and Family Services is not responsible for inaccuracies due to subsequent changes in state law.

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