Child abandonment occurs when a parent, guardian, or person in charge of a child leaves the child without any consideration for their physical health, safety or welfare and with the intention of quitting completely; in some cases, it also happens when you don’t provide the necessary care to a child living under the same roof.
While child abandonment typically involves physical neglect (for example, to leave a child in the door of a stranger when no one is home), it can also include extreme cases of emotional neglect, such as when a parent is addicted to work offers little or no physical contact or emotional support over long periods of time.
Unfortunately, abandoned children (also called children “foundlings”) who do not have their needs met, grow up with low self-esteem, emotional dependence, impotence and other problems.
A person charged with child abandonment may face penalties of felony or misdemeanor crime, and other consequences.
What constitutes child abandonment?
The term “child abandonment” is a broad category that is used to describe a variety of behaviors. The specific examples of child abandonment vary, but the actions that give rise to charges for neglect of children may include:
- leaving a child with another person without providing child support and without meaningful communication with him for a period of three months;
- make only minimal efforts to maintain and communicate with a child;
- spend a minimum period of six months without regular visits to a child;
- not participate in a plan or appropriate program designed to reunite the parent or guardian with a child;
- leaving a newborn in a door, in garbage cans or dumpsters and the side of the road;
- to be absent from home for a period of time that would have generated such a substantial risk of serious harm to a child left in the home;
- not responding to a notice on the process of the protection of minors;
- not being willing to provide care, support or supervision to the child.
Laws on child abandonment
The laws on child abandonment vary from state to state. Many states include child abandonment within its laws on child abuse and vice versa, while some states have laws that specifically address the act of abandonment of children.
Most states classify child abandonment as a felony, which may include situations in which a parent or guardian abandons physically to a child in any place with the intention of relinquishing all rights and responsibilities to the child.
Other states classify child abandonment as a misdemeanor (with penalties for minors), including situations that involve acts of abandonment is not physical.
In general, child abandonment occurs when:
- a parent, guardian or other person who has the custody or control physical of a child
- without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of the child
- he intentionally leaves a child (typically under the age of 13) without supervision by a responsible person (usually older than 14 years), or
- does not maintain contact with the child or provide support reasonable
- during a specified period of time
In the criminal context, child abandonment is defined as the physical neglect of a child, but may also include emotional neglect, such as lack of satisfaction of the basic needs of the child. For example, in some states, a parent may be guilty of abandonment if you do not provide the clothing, food, shelter, or medical care your child needs. However, in other states, parents only receive a punishment for leaving a child with the intention of leaving it.
Laws on mandatory reporting
Because child abandonment is considered child abuse in some states, certain people may have the obligation to report cases of known or suspected child neglect to the appropriate authorities. See the laws on child abuse in your state to see if you qualify as a “whistleblower must”.
Exception to the law of safe haven
The majority of jurisdictions have exceptions to child abandonment in the form of laws of safe haven. Safe haven laws allow mothers to abandon their newborn children in safe places (such as churches, hospitals, and fire stations) without fear of being accused of abandonment of children.
To leave a child home alone
While in some cases it is necessary to leave a child alone in the home, the state generally provides guidance with respect to the age to help parents to avoid charges for child abandonment. According to some state laws, to leave a child home alone may constitute child abandonment, depending on a number of factors, including the age of the child, how long the child was without adult supervision, and economic hardship or illness of a parent or guardian. Read tips on leaving a child alone in the home.
Sanctions and penalties for abandonment of children
According to the state, a person accused of child abandonment faces a wide range of penalties and sentences depending on whether the state classifies as a felony or a misdemeanor. The court shall take into account the factors mentioned above, but penalties can include fines, termination of parental rights, supervised access to the child and prison sentences.
Likewise, a person may face charges for reckless abandon with increased penalties if the child dies as a result of the abandonment.
For a discussion of the defenses for child abuse, click here:
If you are facing charges for child abandonment, it is recommended to work with a lawyer specializing in criminal law in your area to reduce the severity of penalties in all cases of child abuse.