Child neglect is the number one form of child maltreatment in the United States today. Recent statistics show that of the approximately 900,000 children abused each year in the United States, 62 percent suffer from neglect alone. Of the child abuse fatalities, 42 percent were cases of child neglect alone.
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If you are suspected or have been charged with child neglect, your rights to your child or your freedom may be at stake. You may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney. Fill out the free, no-obligation form to connect with a local criminal lawyer today to get the answers and advice you’re looking for.
Definitions in Child Neglect
Federal law allows for each state to set its own criteria for factors in a child neglect case. Generally, a parent or caregiver can be charged with child neglect. A child, under law, is any minor under the age of 18 who is not an emancipated minor. The federally mandated minimum for a child neglect case is:
- Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or
- An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
By law, all teachers and other professionals who work with children are obligated to report reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect. Additionally, 20 states require all citizens to do the same.
“Reasonable suspicion” is generally defined as objective evidence, which could consist of firsthand observation or statements made by a child or parent.
Classifications of Child Neglect
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has identified four types of child neglect:
- Physical neglect: child abandonment, as well as failure to provide basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter;
- Emotional or psychological neglect: ignoring the emotional needs of a child, exposing a child to fearful stimulus, verbal abuse, or allowing a child to engage in alcohol or drugs;
- Educational neglect: failure to enroll a school-age child in mandatory school or special education classes, or failure to provide home-schooling; and
- Medical neglect: failure to provide necessary medical attention to a child when financially capable of doing so.
Causes of Child Neglect
Many cases of child neglect are unintentional. Statistics show that many parents who commit acts of child abuse or neglect were themselves abused as children.
Young or inexperienced parents may not know how to properly care for the children, or may not recognize a child’s needs during different developmental stages.
Child neglect may also be a side effect of extraordinary circumstances, such as poverty, divorce or illness. If you are facing child neglect charges, a criminal defense attorney may be able to help you.
Sentencing in Child Neglect Cases
Public opinion of accused child abusers is low, and as a result, judges and juries may provide harsh sentences. If you are convicted of child neglect, your children may be placed in protective services and you may face jail time.
A criminal defense attorney may recommend rehabilitation, counseling or other treatments that could allow your family to stay together as you learn to properly care for your child.
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The above summary of child neglect is by no means all-inclusive and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on child support laws, speak to a local criminal defense lawyer in your state.