Abandonment of a child
What does Abandonment of a child mean?
Abandonment is the act of a guardian or parent leaving or deserting their child without regard to the child's health, welfare and safety. Abandonment generally involves physical abandonment, although it could also include the failure to care for a child either emotionally or physically for an extended period of time. Abandoned children often have long-term emotional issues including low self-esteem and emotional dependency.
State laws vary, but there are specific behaviors which are generally considered abandonment. Abandonment can include:
- Failing to support or communicate with a child
- Failing to visit a child for six months
- Failing to provide support or speak with a child for three months
- Refusing to participate in a plan to care for a child
- Leaving a child for an extended period of time where they could suffer serious harm
- Failing to supervise or care for a child
- Leaving a child in any location with the intention of not returning
Child abandonment may be considered a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the state and the actions of the parent or guardian.
Depending on your state's laws, if you are aware of child abuse or if you are aware a child has been abandoned you may be legally required to report it to the proper authorities.
What do you do if you know a child has been abandoned?
As mentioned above, if you know that a child has been abandoned in some states you have the legal obligation to report it to the authorities. Whether or not it is required will depend on your state’s child abuse laws.
In some states, children also do not have to be left physically alone to be abandoned. If you know a parent is failing to provide the necessary food, shelter, medical care, or clothing for a child this could also constitute abandonment.
In other states, abandonment is specifically defined as physically leaving a child unattended for an extended period of time.
Can I leave my child home alone?
Leaving a child home alone before they have reached or certain age or maturity age could result in child abandonment charges. Whether or not you would be charged with a crime could depend on the age of your child, the amount of time the child was left alone, the health of the parent, and the economic situation of the parents or guardian.
If you are charged with child abandonment you could face criminal charges and may face a variety of penalties including fines, penalties, termination of parental rights, or jail time.
Child abandonment and terminating parental rights
There are a variety of reasons the parental rights of a parent can be involuntarily terminated (I.e., if a parent chronically abuses the child or is unable to care for the child due to alcohol or drug abuse). Parental rights can also be terminated, however, if the parent fails to support or maintain contact with the child.