Child Abandonment and the Law
As much as we as parents would like to convince ourselves that such a problem does not exist, the problem of child abandonment is one that is all too real. For some, the stress and responsibility of being a parent is just too much, and under great emotional stress and turmoil a parent struggling to cope may leave their children unattended.
For others, the responsibility of being a parent – especially at a young age – is too much and the desire to recapture their own lost youth results in a mother or father leaving their child or children alone.
The Law and Child AbandonmentChild abandonment is considered to be the act of leaving of a child on their own without any intention of returning to ensure their safety and wellbeing. It is considered to be among the most serious of offences a parent can commit in relation to their child.
Child abandonment is normally discovered if a child or children are left alone for a long period of time and are observed to be behaving in a manner not normally befitting of their behaviour. This may include the children wandering around the area in which they live at peculiar times, asking others as to the whereabouts of their parent or children misbehaving or causing trouble in order to seek attention.
What Happens if a Child is found to be AbandonedIf a child has been abandoned, the law must step in at once in order to secure their safety. The likeliest course of action is for social services to be called in. They will attempt to contact another family member into whose care the child will be placed. This is deemed a temporary measure initially, but in the cases of child abandonment that have documented, this can become a long-term arrangement, especially if the parent does not return or shows no signs of being able to cope.
In the absence of any other family, the child will be placed in foster care until a family member can be located or until the courts, in conjunction with social services, make a decision as to what course of action should be taken.
What is the Penalty for Child Abandonment?The penalty for child abandonment is usually a custodial sentence – especially if it is proven beyond any doubt that the parent responsible was of sound mind at the time of the abandonment. Social services, along with the police and local authority, will normally try to establish if there have been any mitigating circumstances that have lead up to the offence occurring, such as a bereavement, signs of emotional distress or the break-up of a marriage or relationship.
If there are signs of such emotional distress, the parent will be required to undergo counselling and also may be instructed to participate in parenting classes while their child is looked after in foster care.
With all parties discussing the circumstances surrounding such abandonment, the parent may be reunited with their children, but may be supervised for a set period of time by social services and welfare officers until it is deemed appropriate to allow them to care for their children unsupervised.