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Understanding and Coping With Child Abandonment

When parents choose not to be involved in their child's life, it can be a heartbreaking situation for the minor and the extended family. When the absence is voluntary, it can have an even more significant impact.
Kids tend to draw their conclusions, and sometimes they may feel that they've done something to cause the situation. It sounds unkind, but explaining to a youngster that their parents left due to a problem is a lot easier than telling them that they were left behind for no valid reason.

What is Child Abandonment?

Child abandonment refers to a parent's choice to voluntarily withhold emotional, physical, and financial support from a minor. The parent fails to fulfill their parental obligations and chooses not to have contact with the child. It's not limited to non-custodial parents.
There are times when parents who have fought to have sole custody have been accused of abandoning their children. Not all abandonment situations are voluntary, and some include parents who had to withdraw due to drug or alcohol abuse.

How to Cope With Child Abandonment?

If you're raising a child where the parents choose not to be involved, it's only natural that you can expect the child to ask questions. These are tough to answer, and the following tips could help:

  • Don't keep putting the conversation off. It may be tempting, but if the topic keeps coming up, it means they're ready to talk.
  • You don't have to have the perfect answer ready, acknowledge their questions and hurt, and show empathy to their emotions.
  • Find something positive to say about the absent parent; it may not be easy but remember that the child still carries a part of their parent inside them and may not see them as the bad person.
  • Be prepared to have several similar conversations as more questions come up as they digest the information they get.

Loss of Parental Rights

Every state has some form of child abandonment laws providing parental rights termination by a court of law. The process ends the legal parent-child relationship, which leaves the minor free to be placed for adoption.
The natural parents of a child who wish to place their child up for adoption can voluntarily give up their rights. When the courts need to decide whether parental rights should be terminated involuntarily, they need to determine the following:

  • That the parent is unfit, through clear and convincing evidence.
  • Whether it's in the child's best interests to cut the parent-child relationship.

The child abandonment laws in Florida require that specific procedures be followed when applying for termination. The process to remove parental rights starts with the filing of a court petition. Once everything is submitted, the court will hold a hearing on the petition.

"The reinstatement of parental rights is, in many states, a possibility if the parent can prove that they are capable of providing a stable environment for the child."

Examples of Child Abandonment

There are several examples of the abandonment of a child, including:

  • Leaving a baby on a doorstep, on the side of the road, or in a trash can.
  • Not being present in the home for an extended period, long enough to create a substantial risk of harm to the child left in the house.
  • Leaving the minor with another individual without providing any support for the child.
  • Not maintaining regular visits for at least six months.
  • Making token efforts to communicate with the child and support them in any way.
  • Being unwilling to provide care, support, and supervision for the minor.
  • Failing to take part in any parenting programs designed to reunite the parent with the child.
  • Not responding to official notices of child custody or protection proceedings.

Let Us Help You

Child abandonment cases are complex and emotional. According to the child abandonment law, the burden lies on the people applying for termination to prove that abandonment occurred.
A court may consider circumstances that the statute doesn't contemplate in cases where parents want to keep their rights intact. An experienced attorney can help craft an appropriate defense or prove abandonment to allow a third party to proceed with the minor's adoption.

Understanding and Coping With Child Abandonment FAQs

Can I Have My Rights as a Parent Reinstated?


In individual states, only nine at the moment, there are laws allowing for reinstatement following parental rights termination. This is only available under the condition that the child hasn’t already been placed in a permanent foster home.

Is child neglect the same as child abandonment?


The two terms are almost the same in context. However, their definitions are different. Child neglect occurs when a caregiver fails to provide a child with the care, services, and supervision needed to maintain the child’s mental and physical health. On the other hand, abandonment is the unlawful desertion of a child with the knowledge that the desertion will expose the child to risk or harm.

Is there a legal way of abandoning a child?


In Florida, it is possible to abandon a child legally. When a parent leaves a newborn that’s 7 days of age or younger at one of the state’s designated locations, the baby is not deemed abandoned. The parent/s will not be criminally investigated unless child abuse or neglect is suspected. Some of the designated locations are fire stations, emergency-services facilities, or hospitals.

What Is a Safe Haven Law Exception?


Most states have safe haven laws, which are an exception to child abandonment laws. These legislations allow mothers to safely abandon their newborn babies in secure locations such as hospitals, fire stations, and churches. They can do so without the fear of being charged with the crime of child abandonment.

What is mandatory reporting in Florida?


Mandatory reporting in Florida means that any person who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is neglected, abused, or abandoned by a parent or guardian is considered a mandatory reporter. Anyone legally obligated to report known abuse must also identify themselves when reporting.

What Qualifies as Abandonment?


In general, it’s when there is an extended period during which the parent doesn’t have any contact with the minor and doesn’t pay child support. There are, however, many more situations when a child is considered abandoned.

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