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The Introduction To The Offense Of Child Neglect and Child Endangerment Under California Law

In the state of California, 7.5 out of every 1,000 children are either abused or neglected. Nearly half a million cases of child abuse and neglect are reported throughout California each year. Child abuse refers to an act of inflicting physical injury, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse on a child. On the other hand, child neglect refers to negligent treatment, which endangers the child's health or welfare.

The child abuse and neglect reporting act (CANRA) was introduced in the statute books to protect the children from abuse and neglect. CANRA defines a child as a person who has not attained 18 years of age.

Are You Neglecting Your Child?

Child Neglect refers to an inattentive, careless, and negligent treatment that threatens a child’s health or welfare. The word ‘treatment’ includes any act or omission that is detrimental to the child’s health or welfare. Child Neglect is categorized as Severe Neglect and General Neglect.

What Constitutes Severe Neglect?

Severe Neglect refers to gross negligence on the part of a person entrusted with the child’s care. It refers to such treatment where the child is not protected from severe malnutrition or from medical ailments. These acts or omissions can either be willful or may arise as a result of carelessness. Simply speaking, severe neglect refers to the failure of a caregiver to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care that endangers a child’s health and welfare.

What Constitutes General Neglect?

It refers to a negligent treatment where the caregiver fails to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision, without causing any physical injury to the child.

Do You Have a Child Who Requires Medical Attention?

It you are entrusted to look-after a child who requires medical attention, any failure on your part to address such medical needs may land you in prison. Any parent who intentionally fails to look-after necessary requirements of a minor child without any legal excuse, is guilty of child neglect. Such crimes are punishable under Penal Code 270 as a misdemeanor. You can be punished with a term in a county jail for up to 1 year or a fine of $2,000 or both.

What Are The Defenses Available To a Person Accused Of Child Neglect?

There are three common legal defenses available to a person charged with a crime of child neglect -

  1. That there was no intention to do such an act that constitutes child neglect, or the parent or guardian did not have adequate means to properly take care of the child.
  2. Presence of lawful excuse for the failure to take proper care of the child. All parents are duty-bound to feed their children. For example, a parent was erroneously arrested by the police during a protest. Because of being under arrest, he/she was unable to feed the child. In such a situation, they can claim that such failure occurred due to a reason beyond their control.
  3. That the accusations made were false, baseless, and without any merit.
How Serious is the Crime of Child Endangerment?

If a person intentionally causes or permits any physical suffering, mental agony, or places the child’s health in danger, where they are entrusted with child’s care or custody, is deemed to have endangered child’s health or welfare. This crime is serious because it can affect the mental health and stability of a child. The legislature has an interest in making sure kids are taken care of and those entrusted with their care comply with the law.

How Well Have You Vetted Your Babysitter?

If you hire a baby-sitter with a history of child-abuse or child-assault or without proper verification, and any untoward incident happens with the child, then you could be charged with child endangerment. You could be punished under PC 273a which carries imprisonment up to 1 year in the county jail or a file up to $1,000. If there was a risk of death or great bodily harm, then you can be charged with a felony and you may face an imprisonment of 2,4, or 6 years in a California state prison, or a fine up to $10,000, or both. So could the childcare provider.

Do You Have a Loaded Firearm In Your House? Can It Be Easily Accessed By a Child? If Your Child Gets Hurt, You Will Be Held Liable?

If you are entrusted with a child’s care or custody, you must ensure that weapons like a loaded firearm, sharp objects such as knife, pills, or fireworks are kept out of a child’s reach. If you have recklessly kept any such object unattended or at a place where it can be easily accessed by the child, and it causes any harm to the child then you may be liable for child endangerment.

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