Child neglect is a specific type of child abuse wherein the parent, guardian, or custodian of a child fails to provide the child’s basic physical or emotional needs. It involves the unwillingness or inability of the parent to provide for the child’s basic needs, such as:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Medical care
  • Emotional support
  • Other needs

In some cases, failing to secure the child’s safety can also constitute child neglect. For example, if the parent allows the child to be in areas where toxic chemicals can be accessed, or other dangers are present, they may be held liable for neglect.

What Are Some Examples of Child Neglect?

Because there are so many different ways that child neglect can occur, many states have created different neglect categories. These may include:

  • Physical: This may involve the failure to provide basic necessities like food, water, clothing, and a safe living environment
  • Emotional: Failure to provide emotional support and normal communication habits with the child can lead to a violation, especially where the emotional neglect actually manifests in physical symptoms in the child
  • Educational: Failure to provide for a child’s educational needs (such as school supplies, transportation, etc.) can constitute neglect
  • Medical: Failing to provide for a child’s medical needs or a specific medical condition can constitute neglect.

In addition, there are other categories such as “gross neglect” or “willful neglect”, which are more serious forms of neglect. They can often result in criminal charges in addition to civil penalties, as the parent or guardian may have acted with criminal intent towards the child. 

What Are the Legal Consequences Associated with Child Neglect?

As mentioned, child neglect can sometimes result in criminal consequences, which may include criminal fines, possible jail times, and in some cases, mandatory counseling. 

Other legal consequences can result, such as:

  • Loss of child custody (i.e., the child needs to be placed in a foster home or with adoptive parents)
  • Loss of visitation privileges
  • Difficulties in obtaining certain civil privileges, such as government benefits or housing

Also, failure to report child neglect can sometimes result in criminal consequences as well, especially where the person has a legal duty to make such reports. A common example of this is where a teacher fails to make an investigation or inquiry into a situation that potentially involves child neglect.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Have Legal Issues Involving Child Neglect?

Child neglect is considered to be a very serious violation, since the safety and well-being of the child may be at issue. If you need legal assistance with any matters involving child neglect, you may wish to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Your lawyer can inform you of the child abuse and neglect laws in your area, and can help obtain protection for the child.