"We remain committed to our clients and available during the difficult time of this pandemic. Telephone/video consultations available. In-person meetings may be available on a case by case basis, when circumstances require. We are able to file court documents electronically, and hold many court hearings by telephone/video conferencing."

What Is Child Neglect?

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child neglect as any situation where a parent or caregiver is unable or willfully does not provide their wards with adequate care. They can be found guilty of child neglect if they don’t offer food, clothing, medical and health care, shelter, or supervision to protect them from harm. Any action or lack of action that endangers the child’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being is considered neglect.

The Law Investigates Every Report of Child Neglect

Any person like a teacher, concerned neighbor, or family friend can notify the authorities if they think that a child is suffering neglect. Signs that point to such situations include missing school frequently, lack of weather-appropriate clothing, and looking dirty with body odor. Stealing or begging for food and money or abusing drugs and alcohol indicate that the child does not have adequate care at home. The child may also talk about their mom or dad not being at home to take care of them.

Parents Could Be Doing the Best They Can

Upon receiving notification of possible child neglect, a social worker or child protective services agent contacts the family and requests an interview. Their objective is to ensure that the child is safe and their needs are met. Frequently, parents cannot provide proper care because of their health, financial, mental, or other socio-economic reasons. If you face unfair allegations of ignoring a child, you will want to get in touch with a lawyer for child neglect. Why is this step important? Depending on the laws of the state where you live, you could incur penalties like fines and imprisonment if the charges are proven.

Each Child Neglect Report Goes Through a Due Process

Even if investigators believe that the report is unfounded, they are duty-bound to explore the matter in detail. Medical and health practitioners, school authorities, and teachers must cooperate with the caseworkers and provide all the information they have to local officials. The child is also interviewed to explore the situation at home. Parents are not permitted to be present during the interview, nor can they attempt to prevent or obstruct any attempts to find evidence. If any concrete proof is found, the caseworkers may refer the report to a criminal court. For these reasons, parents who find their family under investigation must hire an experienced criminal lawyer who can provide helpful advice on what to do next.

What Happens After the Investigation?

Depending on their findings, caseworkers may choose to offer counseling and other resources to the parents to help the child. Along with that, they may place the child with a close family friend or relative who can care for them. The state may also place the child in foster care and make arrangements for dental care, health treatments, and proper education.

Families often come under investigation for child neglect because of parents’ unavoidable situations. Do keep in mind that the law is primarily concerned with safeguarding the child’s interests. Provide all the information you can and contact an attorney for additional advice.

Kelly Peterson
About the Author

Experienced Divorce Lawyer Kelly Peterson handles child custody, visitation, paternity, grandparent rights and mediation cases.

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*Child Welfare Law Specialist Nat’l Assoc. of Counsel for Children