Where family laws are concerned, the constitution often regards the plaintiff, especially a minor with sensitivity and care. Some children have to face the brunt of broken families, divorces, illegitimate affairs, etc., which leaves them at the mercy of a guardian or parent. But when that person also shrugs off his/her responsibility and stops caring for the child, then a case of abandonment arises.
Child abandonment is the act of leaving a child below the age of 18 on his/her own, without the supervision of an adult for a particular period of time which is considered as inappropriate. An abandoned child is termed as a foundling. If the parent or guardian has no physical contact or communication with the kid during this period, and has given no financial support and has deserted the kid with the intention of forsaking, then the parent is culpable, according to the law.
Child and the Law
When a child is observed to be abandoned, the first priority should be to notify the authorities who will bring in social services to ensure his/her safety and well-being. Mostly, an abandoned child is seen wandering around the place of his/her dwelling and behaving peculiarly, which attracts the attention of the neighbors. Child abandonment is a felony and anyone accused of this crime is punishable by law.
When a person is being tried in courts for abandoning a child, the following points are considered, to decide the intensity of his crime.
- The age of the child matters a lot in such cases as toddlers or babies need constant attention of the guardian and leaving them for even a few minutes unsupervised can lead to bodily harm.
- The health of the child, both physical and mental is of consequence here.
- The duration for which the kid is left without parental supervision.
- The place where the child is abandoned. E.g. if a newborn is left in the dumpster by the mother, then she is guilty for this crime.
- The condition in which the child is abandoned, like if the child is in bounds and kept locked in a room or whether the child is given sufficient food and water to survive on his own.
- Whether any other factor could have endangered the life of the child. For example, leaving a child in a room which is susceptible to fire hazards is a case of gross negligence on the part of the parent.
- If the child was left under the supervision of any other adult. Moreover, physical and mental health of that person is assessed too.
- Whether the parent or guardian was forced to leave the child because of economic problems, health problems or any other problem which made the parent incapable for caring for the child is also considered.
A person found guilty of deserting a child which resulted in physical injury or mental agony to the child can be charged with the counts of homicide, manslaughter, and aggravated abuse or custodial sentence. However in some states, baby abandonment is legal, that is, a newborn baby can be deserted by the parent for a period of seven days from the day of his birth in specific locations like hospitals and fire stations. The objective behind such a law is to reduce the dangerous practices which parents are compelled to follow due to their inadequacy in raising a child.
Reasons for Abandonment
An abandoned child is also called social orphan by some people. That means the parents of such a child are alive but have shirked off their responsibilities. Not only does it poses a physical danger to the child, but also can lead to impaired psychological development. In the 1900 century, kids living in the streets of London were called ragamuffins. Nowadays, they are named as street children or homeless kids.
The reason behind their abandonment is often cited as poverty. However, there are also other factors that are at play here. Young parents might feel that they are incapable to share the burden of a raising a baby. Sometimes the mother and/or father who go down on this path turn out to be dealing with substance addiction, criminal offenses, health or/and some psychological issues.
Also, the mother might be afraid of rejection/violence from her spouse which makes her take this drastic step. There is a "moral pressure" on the young mothers who are afraid or unaware to do something about their undesired pregnancy. Such a pregnancy can lead the parents to abandon the baby as he is not a part of their future plans (for example: studies, marriage, job, etc.).
Child abandonment is governed by the state laws. As every state has different definitions for abandonment, these laws also vary. Gradually, more states are looking forward to legalizing abandonment.