Child abandonment happens when a parent or a legal guardian of a child physically deserts a minor, without any consideration regarding the safety of the respective minor. However, according to the law, abandonment is also when the parent or the person in charge with taking care of the child does not provide the necessary care for the child living in the same location as the parent.
The term “child abandonment” is broad and it is comprised of numerous types of behaviors, from not providing the necessary care (securing the child’s emotional welfare, health and safety) to leaving a child in the care of another person and not contacting the child for a long period of time, to actually leaving a child (typically, infants) in different locations (in front of a building, at someone’s doorsteps or on the sidewalk).
The definitions of the term vary depending on the jurisdiction and the legal procedures that can be employed by the witnesses of such events vary based on the country as well. For example, in the UK, child abuse of any kind is highly regulated and citizens who consider that a child is abused by a given person can request information from the local police regarding the person’s police records (under the legislation generally known as the Sarah’s Law).
In the UK, from a legal point of view, a witness of a child abandonment case or a child abuse case is not required to take any steps, but most of the persons witnessing this will call the social services. The representatives of the social services are legally required to take legal measures against this situation and the first step is to contact close family members of the child. In the case in which there are no close family members or if the social services were not able to contact them, the child will be placed in foster care. If you are involved in a child abandonment case, it is recommended to receive legal advice from solicitors who can present the course of action that should be done, depending on the particularities of the case.
One of the ways to address this issue is to contact the Children’s Services or the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; the latter is set up with the purpose of aiding children and, in 2016-2017, it said that it received approximately 20,000 child neglect reports, mostly dealing with unsupervised children, whose parents had alcohol or drug issues. In the USA, for example, the number of child abuse and child abandonment cases is even higher, with approximately three million cases on a yearly basis. In the USA, just like in the UK, child abandonment cases can lead to severe legal consequences.