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What is Considered Child Neglect in California?

Posted in California Law,Criminal Defense,Statistics on January 21, 2022

The state of California defines child neglect as either general or severe. General neglect occurs when a parent, guardian, or caretaker fails to provide the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, or supervision, but the child has not been physically injured. Severe neglect occurs when a child’s health is endangered, such as when a child is severely malnourished. 

Child neglect is spelled out in California Penal Code 270 PC, which criminalizes child neglect. The exact language of the penal code governing child neglect states:

If 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…

Child neglect is a problem nationwide, not just in California. According to the 29th edition of the Health and Human Services Child Maltreatment Report, released in 2020 and based on 2018 data, more than 3.5 million children in the United States were reported victims of abuse and neglect, with nearly 700,000 cases of abuse substantiated by social workers. Of those reported abuse victims, the majority, 60.8 percent, were neglected while 10.7 percent suffered physical abuse and 7 percent were abused sexually. Greater than 15 percent suffered multiple treatment types. It is estimated that 1,770 children died from neglect and abuse during 2018. 

Examples of Child Neglect

Child neglect can occur in a variety of ways. Some examples of child neglect include:

  • A mother failing to seek medical treatment for her 10-year-old daughter when she is obviously ill. 
  • A father who does not provide his son with seasonally appropriate clothing, such as warm clothes during the cold months of the year. 
  • A foster parent fails to feed the 7-year-old child in their care, leading to the child becoming malnourished. 

What Happens if You Are Accused of Child Neglect in California?

The state of California takes child neglect charges seriously. If you are suspected of child neglect, you can be arrested for a misdemeanor offense. Your case will either be dispensed by negotiating with the prosecuting attorney or through a trial in criminal court. Child neglect is a misdemeanor under California law and comes with a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of $2,000. Persons convicted of child neglect may also lose custodial rights to the child and be subject to probation

Are There Any Defenses to Child Neglect Charges? 

There are several defenses to child neglect that may apply in your case. Perhaps you did not act willfully (you lost your job and couldn’t provide the things your child needed). Maybe you were in an accident and left mentally or physically unable to care for the child. Or it could be the case that you are being falsely accused, which sometimes happens between parents who are separating or divorcing. 

Being accused of child neglect is a serious matter that requires experienced legal help. A conviction can negatively impact many facets of your life, affecting your ability to retain custody of your child and even resulting in the loss of your freedom. If you are facing this serious charge, reach out to Riverside child neglect attorney Graham Donath at (951) 667-5293 or by clicking here.