parental neglect

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Parental neglect is a parent or legal guardian’s failure to provide a child with necessities. This is often considered a type of child abuse, and is also referred to as child neglect. For example, California Penal Code § 270 states that “[i]f a parent of a minor child willfully omits, without lawful excuse, to furnish necessary clothing, food, shelter or medical attendance, or other remedial care for his or her child, he or she is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by [a fine or imprisonment].” Also, many jurisdictions, including California—in Penal Code § 270—state that child abandonment is prima facie evidence of parental neglect. In many cases, parental neglect may lead to termination of parental rights. For example, California Family Code § 7823 provides that a petition to terminate parental rights may be brought where the child has been neglected. 

Parental neglect can take many forms and is not limited to physical abuse. For example, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act includes “physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and physical and emotional neglect” in their definition of child neglect. While physical abuse and neglect may be clear from objective medical expert testimony, emotional neglect may be more difficult to establish. A Georgia Court of Appeals case, In re D. Q, found that a mother neglected her children by depriving them of adequate support for their mental health issues, not utilizing available resources to assist their problems, and attempting to hospitalize one of the children because of their problems. Other forms of non-physical neglect may involve a failure to ensure the child receives educational opportunities. For example, California Penal Code § 270.1 provides that parental neglect includes allowing a child to consistently miss mandatory attendance in school. 

[Last updated in April of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]