Laws vary by state, but generally, a man or woman may commit the crime of endangering the welfare of a child when:
- He or she knowingly directs or authorizes a child under a defined age to engage in an occupation involving a substantial risk of danger to his life or health; or
- He or she, as a parent, guardian or other person legally charged with the care or custody of a minor, fails to exercise reasonable diligence in the control of such child to prevent him or her from becoming a "dependent child" or a "delinquent child".
- He or she knowingly permits a child under a defined age of age to enter or remain in a house of prostitution.
- He or she knowingly sells, furnishes, gives away or offers to sell, furnish or give away to a child under a defined age any intoxicating liquor, cigarettes, tobacco, air rifles, gunpowder, smokeless powder or ammunition for firearms.
- Being the parent, foster parent, guardian or other person having the care and custody of the child, cruelly treats that child by abuse, neglect or extreme punishment.
Remedial treatment by spiritual means alone in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof in lieu of medical treatment may be excepted from the above as an offense. A frequent result of an "endangering" charge is that the child is removed from the home and placed in foster care (if the accused is a parent).