Parental Abandonment Of Children
Parental abandonment of children is different from other cases of abandonment in that it involves a person rather than property. Abandonment of children is a criminal CAUSE OF ACTION under most state laws. In the civil context, it arises when a court decides to terminate the natural rights of the parent on the grounds of abandonment to allow ADOPTION.
In a criminal context, abandonment of children is defined as actually abandoning a child, or failing to provide necessities of living to a child. In California, for example, a parent is guilty of abandonment if they fail to provide "necessary clothing, food, shelter or medical attendance, or other remedial care for their child." A parent is required to accept their minor child into their home, or provide alternative shelter. Parents in California are also punished for "desertion with intent to abandon." These laws are typical of most states.
In the late 1990s, the issue of baby abandonment in the United States came to a head as a result of several high profile cases. These cases prompted 38 states to pass so-called "safe haven laws." The laws decriminalize baby abandonment by allowing mothers to leave their unharmed babies at a designated "safe." location such as a hospital, fire station, or licensed child-placing agency. The laws include a time frame, beginning from the baby's birth, in which abandonment may take place; the time frame varies from state to state, ranging from 72 hours up to one year.
In a civil context, abandonment of a child is usually ruled on by a court to facilitate an adoption. State courts employ various guidelines to determine if a child has been abandoned. In an action for adoption on the ground of abandonment, the petitioner generally must establish conduct by the child's natural parent or parents that shows neglect or disregard of parental duties, obligations, or responsibilities. They must also show an intent by the child's parent or parents to permanently avoid parental duties, obligations, or responsibilities. Some jurisdictions require an actual intention of the parents to relinquish their rights to find abandonment, but most allow a finding of abandonment regardless of whether the parents intended to extinguish their rights to the child.
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