Child abandonment occurs when a parent, guardian, or person in charge of a child either deserts a child without any regard for the child's physical health, safety or welfare and with the intention of wholly abandoning the child, or in some instances, fails to provide necessary care for a child living under their roof.
In a nutshell, abandonment happens when:
- Leaving an infant on a doorstep, in a trash can, or on the side of the road
- Being absent from the home for a period of time long enough to create substantial risk of harm to a child left in the home
- Leaving a child with another person without providing for the child’s support, and with no meaningful communication with the child or caregiver for a period specified by statute, usually three months
- Failing to maintain regular visitation with a child for a period of at least six months
- Making only token efforts to support and communicate with a child
- Refusing, or being unwilling, to provide supervision, care, and support for a child
- Failing to participate in a parenting plan or program designed to reunite the parent with the child
- Failing to respond to official notice of child protective or child custody proceedings
The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System groups child abandonment with maltreatment and neglect. The caregiver's inability to give children necessary and age-appropriate care, even when the family has the resources and financial income to provide the care, qualifies as neglect under most state laws. The types of child neglect include physical, educational, medical and emotional or psychological. Failure to give children adequate food, shelter and the lack of proper supervision come under the category of physical neglect. Medical abandonment includes the neglect of important medical and mental health treatment. Adults unable or unwilling to see children receive an education can be charged with educational neglect under federal law. Emotional abandonment includes neglect of the child's basic emotional needs, failure to provide psychological services and allowing children to abuse drugs and alcohol.
The causes for child abandonment are complex. Poverty, lack of education, cultural values and low levels of standard care for the community all contribute to abandonment. Mental and physical illness of either the child or parents occasionally lead to abandonment. Adults sometimes lack information or the education to identify medical problems, for example, and cultural differences lead some parents to fail to send children to school. Parents unable to care for themselves because of drug or alcohol abuse frequently also fail to care for children. Each type of child abandonment has specific reasons, but most cases of abandoned children involve the interaction between a number of causes. The common element in abandonment cases is the parent's personality and the lack of sound psychological and parenting development, according to childhood development researchers Jay Belsky and Joan Vondra.
Quoting Psychology Today, when children are raised with chronic loss, without the psychological or physical protection they need and certainly deserve, it is most natural for them to internalize incredible fear. Not receiving the necessary psychological or physical protection equals abandonment. And, living with repeated abandonment experiences creates toxic shame. Shame arises from the painful message implied in abandonment: "You are not important. You are not of value." This is the pain from which people need to heal.
For some children abandonment is primarily physical. Physical abandonment occurs when the physical conditions necessary for thriving have been replaced by:
- lack of appropriate supervision
- inadequate provision of nutrition and meals
- inadequate clothing, housing, heat, or shelter
- physical and/or sexual abuse
· Children are totally dependent on caretakers to provide safety in their environment. When they do not, they grow up believing that the world is an unsafe place, that people are not to be trusted, and that they do not deserve positive attention and adequate care.
Although the child abandonment laws describe certain acts that constitutional non-physical abandonment of children, the truth is, emotional abandonment is subjective. Any act or failure to act that leaves a child feeling unwanted, discarded, or insecure may be considered emotional abandonment under the laws of child safety and welfare.
Experts in child psychology have found that, in a child’s eyes, abandonment is more about the parent’s absence and failure to communicate or take an active role in his life, than any financial considerations. Many children feel it is their fault, and experience feelings of low self worth and shame. Because emotional abandonment by a parent has the potential to cause a lifetime of issues for the child, it is taken very seriously by the courts.
Emotional abandonment occurs when parents do not provide the emotional conditions and the emotional environment necessary for healthy development. I like to define emotional abandonment as "occurring when a child has to hide a part of who he or she is in order to be accepted, or to not be rejected."
Having to hide a part of yourself means:
- it is not okay to make a mistake.
- it is not okay to show feelings, being told the way you feel is not true. "You have nothing to cry about and if you don't stop crying I will really give you something to cry about." "That really didn't hurt." "You have nothing to be angry about."
- it is not okay to have needs. Everyone else's needs appear to be more important than yours.
- it is not okay to have successes. Accomplishments are not acknowledged, are many times discounted.
Other acts of abandonment occur when:
- Children cannot live up to the expectations of their parents. These expectations are often unrealistic and not age-appropriate.
- Children are held responsible for other people's behavior. They may be consistently blamed for the actions and feelings of their parents.
- Disapproval toward children is aimed at their entire beings or identity rather than a particular behavior, such as telling a child he is worthless when he does not do his homework or she is never going to be a good athlete because she missed the final catch of the game.
- When parents do not view children as separate beings with distinct boundaries
- When parents expect children to be extensions of themselves
- When parents are not willing to take responsibility for their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, but expect children to take responsibility for them
- When parents' self-esteem is derived through their child's behavior
- When children are treated as peers with no parent/child distinction
Abandonment plus distorted boundaries, at a time when children are developing their sense of worth, is the foundation for the belief in their own inadequacy and the central cause of their shame.
Abandonment experiences and boundary violations are in no way indictments of a child's innate goodness and value. Instead, they reveal the flawed thinking, false beliefs, and impaired behaviors of those who hurt them. Still, the wounds are struck deep in their young hearts and minds, and the very real pain can still be felt today. The causes of emotional injury need to be understood and accepted so they can heal. Until that occurs, the pain will stay with them, becoming a driving force in their adult lives.
Famous abandonment cases
The Osaka child abandonment case was a case of child abandonment involving two abandoned children in Osaka, Japan. It occurred in late June 2010 when Sanae Shimomura, a 23-year-old Japanese single mother in Osaka, sealed the door of her apartment shut, abandoning 3-year-old daughter Sakurako Hagi and 1-year-old son Kaede Hagi inside. Neighbors heard the children crying over many weeks until it suddenly subsided, but did not think anything more of this than simply children in a bad childhood phase. Since Shimomura did not come to work for several days, a colleague went to her place and noticed a strange smell beyond the door. When the police entered the apartment, they found the two children dead. Social workers had attempted to stop by the apartment several times over the course of the children's confinement, but never found anyone home. The apartment was in a lively, populated area, but nobody knew that the children were confined.
Shimamura was arrested on 30 July 2010. She was reported to have wanted free time for herself and was quoted as saying that she had grown "tired of feeding and bathing" her two children on her own.
Source: Seattle Times
Police said the stench of feces, human and cat urine and rotting food was overwhelming, causing one officer’s eyes to water.
Inside, the home was dirty and in “extreme disarray,” filled with dirty diapers, excrement, food wrappers, broken toys, dirty clothes and garbage, police wrote. The walls were covered by children’s drawings, the kitchen was blocked by a clothes dryer and some areas were so filled with bags that there was only a small path through the room, the affidavit says.
There was no heat and no food in the house, police said. Police said the 11-month-old baby was found locked in an upstairs room that was separate and unreachable by his siblings, and that the infant was barely responsive to touch. He had a core body temperature of 94 degrees and was undernourished and dehydrated, police said. Police said it was not known how long the children had been left alone.
In a statement released Wednesday, the state Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees CPS, said the children have since been placed in a foster home.
Cases of “obscure” boundaries and “curiosities” as per child abandonment.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press, article by Mike McIntyre
A Winnipeg woman who left her six-year-old child alone in a locked home for 90 minutes has been found not guilty of child abandonment.
The mother, who isn’t being named to protect the identity of the boy, learned her fate on Friday afternoon. Provincial court Judge Margaret Wiebe said the woman clearly made a poor choice, but that doesn’t automatically make it criminal. "It was an unacceptable reason to leave a child alone. It was poor judgment," said Wiebe. But the judge said the mother clearly had "no fear" of her son being at risk, which is a key issue needed to prove the charge. "This was an active, bright young child left in a well-kept home with no evident or immediate danger," said Wiebe.
The facts of the case were not in dispute. The boy was home alone on a summer afternoon, surrounded by food, water and a television to keep him company. He suffered no harm. Police found the boy in the home, eating pudding and doing a puzzle while watching television. He appeared happy, court was told.
Police had been called when the boy’s father – who had recently ended the marriage with his wife – saw her driving alone. He called the house, where his son answered. The mother told police she had been "stressed" because she needed to pick up medication and see a couple of clients while working as a health-care aide. She had no family in Winnipeg and decided to leave her son for a short period of time to run a few errands.
Under the Criminal Code, the charge is met when a child under the age of 10 is left alone and has his or her "life or health endangered." And that's where the lines blur, with Crown and defence lawyers having different views of whether that subjective legal test has been met. "Even in a home environment, that child was endangered," prosecutor Nancy Fazenda argued last month. "There doesn't necessarily have to be a negative consequence."
The mother has lost care of her child, who is being raised by his father. The parents are separated, court was told. Child and Family Services is also involved in the case, and she hasn't seen the boy since her arrest more than 18 months ago. Fazenda argued another element of the charge has been satisfied by the fact the mother chose to leave the boy alone, rather than responding to an emergency that altered her plans. "There's no question it was a deliberate act, that she meant to leave the child," said Fazenda.
Journal of Medical Ethics by S. Giordano
It may be argued that egg and sperm donation is a form of child abandonment, this paper deals with people who either procreate or adopt a child with the aim of having and raising a child, not with people who donate or sell their gametes for others to have children. To donate gametes for others to have children amounts to allowing those people to have children whom they could not have otherwise, to provide others with the means to procreate, but does not amount to abandoning children. Child abandonment would happen if those who brought the child into being subsequently abandoned him or her.
Putting children up for adoption is also not a form of child abandonment, as we shall see in the section on unwanted babies. Clearly, my stance partly rests on the value I attach to intentions. Intentions (ie, what people want to do and the purposes for which they do what they do), as we shall see later, matter in these cases. Nobody can be forced to raise an unwanted child - but there are ways of delegating parental responsibility that are not criminal or ethically questionable. Intending to make a child with the aim of bringing a new person into the world seems to carry a stringent responsibility both towards the child and towards the person with whom the child is conceived.
Termination of Parental Rights
Parents have a constitutionally protected right to raise, protect, and educate their children. Such rights generally include physical custody of the child, the right to prevent adoption of a child, the right to educate and discipline the child, and the right to control and manage the minor child’s income and property. When parents fail to provide for the child’s welfare and safety, however, their rights to parent the child may be terminated by the court.
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I chose to put all these facts ahead of my own opinion because I have been quite taken aback by what I discovered when researching this topic. My ideas were very poor as was my imagination as to why people abandon children. Or the absolutely incredible reasons and ease with which they do it. As every one of you out there, I could sum up a short list of things that could make someone give up their kids.
Poverty, financial problems, depression, mental illnesses, utter feeling of being overwhelmed and in lack of family support and possible education, they run away from such a huge responsibility. From leaving kids in orphanages, in hospital beds right after giving birth to them, to throwing them in trash cans wrapped in garbage bags or leave them for dead in public toilets where they brought them to life, I could think of all these paranormal things that I’ve heard people do. I can’t understand it. I can’t even try to understand but I have read and know for a fact stuff like this happens. My mom has been a nurse for 35 years and is currently working in the maternity ward and she can come up with some disturbing stories.
And still. I mean a huge still. All these cases that I mostly knew of involved the aftermath of birth. I hardly ever thought that once you have about 2 to 4 or 5 kids that have already reached ages of ten, you can actually just get up and leave. I read an article where the father brought his 9 (NINE!!!) kids to a local hospital and left them there saying he has had enough and vanished. Just. Like. That. I am really really refraining myself from judgment into wondering how in the hell did he come up with 9 kids if you know you have no money and possibility of any other kind to raise them.
I want, I want to believe – and please tell me if I’m totally bulshiting myself on this one with unicorn fairy tale dreams! – that if a poor family who has had, let’s say 3 kids already, goes to a family planning facility and says, “listen, we are not the most educated, but we are honest people, make an honest living and 3 kids is already more than we can handle. We would like to control this.” And thus said, they would not be given any help. Like NO help at all. I doubt that. Ok. I am aware that perhaps in the farthest corners of the world where people struggle even for water, birth control seems 24th century light years away from any of their daily ordeals. But then again if we don’t provide them with this kind of assistance as well then we shouldn’t wonder why we see kids dying of starvation on the streets. By the time we intervene it is too late. Anyway. This stands for a different discussion because living conditions, education and so on in these areas do not help in the least to contain the numbers of homeless, sick, starving children or adults as a matter of fact.
Let’s just keep to the societies where help does exist. The cases I presented above. Those were women who knew exactly what was going on. I read about this one other woman living in Canada, who decided to leave on vacation for 7 days and left her two toddlers in the house alone with just a bottle for each. When she came back she found one of them dead, put him in a plastic bag and threw him out and then left for another 4 days back on vacation. Second one died and the landlord following the stench called the police. COME ON! Mental illness?! You’ve had these kids for a couple of years now! You just became mentally ill suddenly? You went in full depression mode and left on vacation? I am no councilor, but I thought depressed people harmed themselves, drew themselves from the world, but not on vacation! Or perhaps, she just blocked her motherhood away and suddenly decided she deserves this. But still. I don’t know, I can’t understand how you can just leave and rationally know there is no way in hell your kids will survive on their own!
On the other hand, abandonment legislation, covering such a delicate situation where abandonment stands for more issues than just one, can be quite tricky in untangling. That woman leaving her 10 year old with everything he needed to go pick up medication? I wouldn’t call it abandonment. Mom left me to go buy stuff many times. Of course there are knives and dangerous stuff in the bathroom to be ingested and windows to be opened and gas to be turned on in the stove. I never touched it. I was afraid ‘cause mom told me so many times how dangerous they all are and she also kept her promise and came back when she said she would so I always felt safe and stayed put. You can’t keep her from seeing her child for 18 months because of stuff like this!!!
If you have this kind of approach to a woman missing for an hour then what do you do about this one other case I read about where again the mother just left her 4 kids ages 4 to 15 for nine months! Her first born was killed by some friends of the second child and this second child helped bury his sister’s body. When police found them and placed them in social care she turned herself in. Her second child was also convicted of body abandonment but due to the circumstances he was put in a special juvenile facility. The mother, after serving two years in prison, came back and was granted custody of her two remaining kids. What the fuck!?! Really?!
And then. Ok. It never crossed my mind that someone would ever look at sperm/egg donation as child abandonment. And talking about putting kids for adoption as mentioned in Chapter II; now this is also child abandonment?! I secretly wonder how that man who proclaimed so much that a raped woman can give her child for adoption would react if I told him that she would be abandoning her child?! Haha. Figure this shit out now smarty pants!
This is the last Chapter of the Motherhood. The Other Side. Trilogy. And believe me I never expected it to be the sickest one. I read the articles, I read police archives and hospital staff statements. But I could not look at the pictures of babies found thrown away. It just made me throw up. Please make up your mind of what you want to do! Keep it, don’t keep it, have him, give him away for adoption or raise it. But do not abandon them this way!
I never thought acts of cruelty such as this happened. None of the articles stated whether the mothers had been diagnosed with a mental illness or drug abuse or anything that would remotely justify their actions. From where I stand, they would be the only real reasons behind leaving your kids to die. It’s true. I will never be able to understand what someone goes through, even when asking for help and being provided none. I am sure there are many cases when society gives families in need the cold shoulder. But when you turn your back and leave and turn that key into the lock, after having raised, fed and rocked to sleep these kids for years, doesn’t it hurt you beyond reason, breaking through your ribs and ripping through your heart, to let them die? And even if you feel there is no way out and the world really goes that dark, would you prefer they die alone or with you? As captain to your family perhaps you should go down with the ship and the crew. I don’t wish to sound dramatic. It is a very very sad fact for me. For the kids and the parents and unfortunately I don’t hold the key to their problems. But is there really nothing that can be done?