Parents and legal guardians are legally obligated to provide shelter, food, clothing, and medical care for their children. Failing to do so can be considered child abandonment, which is a form of child abuse or neglect. Although every state may have various child abandonment laws that differ from each other, they all essentially discuss the care for a child, or lack thereof. In New Jersey, child abandonment is constituted as:
- Willfully forsaking a child while having custody or control.
- Failing to control a child if they are exposed to a moral or physical risk as well as not providing sufficient protection from those dangers.
- A person who has custody over a child fails to care or exercise control over that child so that the child must be supported by a third party who does not have custody of the child at the public’s expense.
The New Jersey Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), once known as the Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), oversees allegations of child abuse and neglect in the state. The department is responsible for investigating and legal proceedings when there is a report of child abuse or neglect.
What Are the Signs of Child Neglect and Abandonment?
Child abandonment and child neglect are forms of child abuse. In some cases, identifying child abandonment is clear and obvious. There are stories of infants being left outside of fire stations or hospitals is an obvious case of child abandonment. Also, you can sometimes identify child abandonment because of a child’s age and their abilities, such as an older child who has unkept hair and has been wearing the same clothes for weeks.
However, identifying child abandonment is not always so simple, that is because symptoms of child neglect are not as clear cut and abandonment is a form of neglect. Those symptoms include failing to attend to a child’s emotional and psychological needs, failing to educate the child and providing the necessary medical care, nourishment, and shelter.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, child neglect is the most common form of child abuse, with over 60 percent of at least 656,000 maltreated children being children of neglect. Child neglect is generally an accumulation of inadequate care that can be identified by someone who is in close contact with the child, such as a neighbor or a teacher.
Signs and symptoms of child neglect and child abandonment include:
- Offensive body odor
- Unwashed or unkept hair
- Dirty skin
- Inappropriate clothing for weather
- Lack of supervision
- Ill-fitting clothing or unclean clothing
Teachers or caregivers can identify neglect when the child is:
- Frequently absent
- Begs for food or money
- Appears to lack medical necessities, such as dental care, immunizations, or glasses
- Has offensive body odor or has not bathed in a long time
- Abuses alcohol or drugs
- States that someone at home abuses drugs or alcohol
- States that there is no one at home to care for them
Teachers or someone close to the family can also identify neglect when the parent or caregiver of a child is:
- Apathetic or depressed
- Indifferent to the child, uncaring
- Irrational and emotional
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
There are many different forms of neglect. Physical neglect can include child abandonment, which covers a wide range. Examples include the desertion of a child without arranging care or custody from a third party to expulsion from a home to not providing adequate care or safety. Physical neglect can also be inadequate clothing or nutrition or hygiene. Even a reckless regard for a child’s safety can be considered physical neglect.
Emotional neglect is the lack of affection or nurturing or failing to provide psychological care. It may also include allowing the child to use drugs or alcohol or abusing a spouse in front of the child. Educational neglect is when a child is of mandatory age for school but there is a chronic truancy or refusing to provide an education. Failing to provide care for a learning disorder could also be considered educational neglect. Medical neglect is failing to provide for the health care of a child, such as malnutrition or lack of immunizations.
Who Has to Report Child Abandonment?
Each state has different laws regarding who must report child abandonment or neglect to their respective departments. Most states may include:
- Teachers, school employees and administrators.
- Counselors and therapists
- Medical professionals like dentists or pediatricians.
- Childcare workers and providers
- Social workers
- Workers that provide organized activities for children, such as a soccer coach.
Many states legally require people to report child abuse or neglect. Some include anyone over the age of 18 years to report it or they may be liable to criminal penalties. When reporting child abuse or abandonment, the reporter does not have to provide proof, but they must report the circumstances that led them to make the report. In New Jersey, any person who has knowledge or has a reason to believe that a child is being abused is legally required to report it to the DCPP.
What Are the Penalties for Child Abandonment?
If someone reports a case of child abandonment to the DCPP, then an investigation will be started. If the screener believes it is a true case of neglect, then Child Protective Services (CPS) or Child Welfare Services (CWS) will be called.
The penalty for child abandonment or neglect varies from state to state, as each state may consider it either a felony or misdemeanor. Some penalties include jail time, a hefty fine, or both. Other states may penalize you by terminating your parental rights. Serious child neglect cases may constitute a felony and convictions can be several years in prison.
If you are facing child abandonment charges, it is best to contact an experienced DYFS lawyer right away to discuss the details of your case and what penalties you may be facing.
The Moorestown DYFS Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Help Families Facing Child Abandonment Charges
If you or your family are dealing with cases involving the DYFS, you need the help of an experienced legal team to reach a successful outcome. Contact the Moorestown DYFS lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker right away. Call us today at 856-210-9776 or fill out our online form for an initial consultation. From our offices located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we proudly serve all clients of Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, Voorhees, South Jersey.