Child Endangerment - Definition, Examples, Cases, Processes (2023)

The term “child endangerment” is used to describe an act, or the failure to perform an act, that puts a child’s safety in danger. Examples of child endangerment can include any threats to a child’s physical, mental, or emotional wellbeing. Child abuse that is the result of child endangerment is typically charged as a misdemeanor, though abuse that results in serious mental or physical effects is tried as a felony. To explore this concept, consider the following child endangerment definition.

Definition of Child Endangerment


  1. An act, or a neglect to perform an act, that causes a child to suffer physical, emotional, or psychological abuse.



(Video) Child Abuse & Neglect Court Procedure 101

Child Endangerment Laws

Child endangerment laws differ, depending on the state, as do the consequences for these crimes. However, there are certain elements of child endangerment laws that, more or less, remain the same no matter what state you live in.

For example, child endangerment laws do not typically apply to cases wherein parents have simply made a mistake, like leaving a child in a locked car with the engine running while they made a quick trip into a store. Child endangerment laws refer to people who deliberately put children in situations that would more than likely put them in danger.

If a mother were to take drugs or drink alcohol, and then drive with her child in the car, this would be a better example of child endangerment. She is more likely to get in an accident that would injure the child, and she was aware that what she was doing was dangerous for her child but did it anyway.

Child Endangerment Charges

Depending on the severity of the situation, child endangerment charges can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Whether a person is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony depends on whether the child was exposed to substantial danger or was put into a potentially dangerous situation. Some states make the decision to charge individuals with a felony child endangerment charge based on whether the child suffered a physical injury as a result of the individual’s actions, or inaction.

Penalties for child endangerment vary by state. In many jurisdictions, a person convicted on a misdemeanor charge will typically spend perhaps a year in prison. If he is convicted on a felony charge, however, he may face up to 10 years, or possibly more.

(Video) What are child abuse and neglect?

A person convicted on either a misdemeanor or felony can also be sentenced to probation. Probation typically lasts about a year, and during that time, the individual is required to complete Court-ordered activities, such as participating in family counseling and avoiding becoming involved with any other illegal activity. If someone on probation is caught doing something illegal, the court can then sentence him to jail time.

Someone convicted of a misdemeanor or felony may also be ordered to pay a fine in connection with his sentence. For a misdemeanor, the fines can be up to $1,000. For a felony, however, the fines can be $10,000 or more. Also, in the case of child endangerment, a sentence may include the stripping of the person’s parental rights. If there is no other parent present to care for the child, then the child would be appointed a legal guardian or, failing that, be placed with the state until a legal guardian can be appointed.

Reporting Child Endangerment

Many states have toll-free numbers for people to call for reporting child endangerment if they believe a child is being abused or neglected. The State Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Numbers list provides phone numbers for each state for the purpose of reporting child endangerment. In some states, it is actually required by law that a person report to their local agency if they suspect a child is being subjected to abuse. The case outlined below covers this in more detail.

There are laws in place to protect those who report what they believe to be child endangerment in the event they are, in fact, wrong. So long as the report is made in good faith – for example, that it isn’t just a spiteful neighbor making a report in order to get back at the neighbor she had a fight with – then the report will be taken seriously, and the person will not be penalized for making a false report. And, of course, in the event of an emergency, individuals are advised to call 9-1-1, rather than their state agencies.

DUI Child Endangerment

The penalties suffered for a DUI child endangerment charge are typically more severe. As mentioned above, this is because the individual knowingly drove the car, with a child as a passenger, after consuming enough alcohol to become intoxicated. DUI is a crime already, let alone DUI with a child in the car.

(Video) The Magistrates' Court

Typically DUI child endangerment is charged as two separate crimes in the same case. A person driving with any minor in the vehicle under 18 years of age can be charged with child endangerment. The penalty for child endangerment alone in this case may include a short incarceration in jail, in addition to whatever penalties are handed down by the court for the DUI charge. Further, while it is rare for a child to be taken away from his parent after a DUI charge, any crime involving a child is automatically reported to Child Protective Services.

Child Endangerment Example Involving a Prostitute’s Boyfriend

An example of child endangerment can be found in the case of Ohio v. Clark, which was decided in June 2015. Here, Darius Clark acted as a pimp to his girlfriend, sending her to Washington, D.C. to work for him. While she was gone, Clark was in charge of her two children: a three-year-old son (“L.P.”) and an 18-month-old daughter. While at preschool one day, the three-year-old’s teacher noticed bruises on his body. The boy identified Clark as his abuser.

After authorities investigated the situation and found bruises on the 18-month-old as well, Clark was arrested. He was charged with four counts of assault, two counts of child endangerment, and two counts of domestic violence. During the criminal trial, the State produced the statements the boy made to his teachers as proof that Clark was guilty of abuse. The trial court ruled that the boy would not have to testify against Clark, as Ohio law dictated that the statement could be entered as evidence without the need for a young child to have to testify against his attacker.

Clark was ultimately convicted on all charges, except for one of the assault charges. He appealed his conviction and tried to have the boy’s statements struck. The argument was that, since the boy did not testify, then accepting his statement into evidence was actually a violation of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment. Clark’s lawyers actually argued that he should have the right to confront his accuser…a three-year-old boy.

If that’s not crazy enough, the appellate court actually agreed with Clark and overturned the trial court’s decision! The case then escalated to the Ohio Supreme Court, and the Ohio Supreme Court also upheld it! Justice was finally served when the case reached the United States Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the Court struck down the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision.

(Video) Recognition and Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect

Justice Alito, speaking for the Court, agreed that while statements are normally inadmissible if the party does not testify, there are some exceptions to that rule. If the situation is, in fact, one that calls for an exception to be made, the statement would be guided by state or federal rules, not the Confrontation Clause. And, in this case, the Court did not believe the child’s statement was one that should have been considered a form of testimony.

Said the Court:

“L. P.’s statements occurred in the context of an ongoing emergency involving suspected child abuse. When L. P.’s teachers noticed his injuries, they rightly became worried that the 3-year-old was the victim of serious violence. Because the teachers needed to know whether it was safe to release L. P. to his guardian at the end of the day, they needed to determine who might be abusing the child.Thus, the immediate concern was to protect a vulnerable child who needed help…L. P.’s teachers were not sure who had abused him or how best to secure his safety. Nor were they sure whether any other children might be at risk. As a result, their questions and L. P.’s answers were primarily aimed at identifying and ending the threat…

“The Court also found that the child’s young age makes it unlikely that he could understand the idea of criminal prosecution or testifying against a witness. Thus, the statement made by the child was in the context of wanting to be safe from harm, rather than trying to induce a legal process. This is not undermined by the teacher’s requirement under mandatory reporting laws to inform the police. Instead, the statement was said in response to questions asked in good faith by teachers looking out for the wellbeing of their student.”

Related Legal Terms and Issues

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  • Felony – A crime, often involving violence, regarded as more serious than a misdemeanor. Felony crimes are usually punishable by imprisonment more than one year.
  • Misdemeanor – A criminal offense less serious than a felony.
  • Prosecution – The lawyers who argue that the person being accused of a crime is guilty.
  • Prostitution – The practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for money or other payment.
  • Testimony – A declaration or statement of a witness under oath, usually in court.


Child Endangerment - Definition, Examples, Cases, Processes? ›

Examples of child endangerment can include any threats to a child's physical, mental, or emotional wellbeing. Child abuse that is the result of child endangerment is typically charged as a misdemeanor, though abuse that results in serious mental or physical effects is tried as a felony.

What is an example of child neglect? ›

A child's basic needs, such as food, clothing or shelter, are not met or they aren't properly supervised or kept safe. A parent doesn't ensure their child is given an education. A child doesn't get the nurture and stimulation they need. This could be through ignoring, humiliating, intimidating or isolating them.

What happens if you get charged with child endangerment in PA? ›

Endangering the welfare of children is a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. If convicted, you face up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. However, the typical sentence for a first-time offender is up to one year.

What is the punishment for child endangerment in California? ›

Charged as a misdemeanor, child endangerment can carry up to one year in county jail. Charged as a felony, child endangerment can be punished by two years, four years, or six years in state prison.

Is child endangerment a felony in Massachusetts? ›

Child Endangerment Penalties

The penalty for this offense us up to 2 1/2 years in prison. It is a felony charge.

What are the 4 types of neglect? ›

Let's take a look at the types of neglect.
  • Physical Neglect. The failure to provide necessary food, clothing, and shelter; inappropriate or lack of supervision.
  • Medical Neglect. The failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment.
  • Educational Neglect. ...
  • Emotional Neglect.
Dec 27, 2018

What is emotional neglect of a child? ›

Childhood emotional neglect happens when your parents sufficiently neglect your emotions and emotional needs. Meaning, they do not notice what you are feeling, ask about your feelings, connect with you on an emotional level, or validate your feelings enough.

What is child neglect punishment? ›

Penalties for Child Neglect

Abandonment with Intent to Return: 6 months to 2 years in state jail and a fine up to $10,000. Abandonment with No Intent to Return: 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Abandonment Placing Child in Imminent Danger: 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

What degree is endangering the welfare of a child in PA? ›

(i) An offense under this section constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree. (ii) If the actor engaged in a course of conduct of endangering the welfare of a child, the offense constitutes a felony of the third degree.

What is a f3 felony in PA? ›

Third-Degree Felony

A conviction for a felony in the 3rd degree in Pennsylvania includes from 3.5 to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. This includes crimes such as: Bribery. Possession of child pornography. Possession with intent to distribute.

Is it illegal to slap your child in the face in California? ›

As previously discussed, corporal punishment of a child in California is illegal if it is cruel, inhuman, or causes a traumatic condition. Therefore, if a parent hits a child in a manner that is cruel, inhuman, or causes external or internal injuries, they may be arrested.

What is willful cruelty to a child? ›

Willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment of a child means a situation where any person willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon, unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the child to be ...

How do I get a CPS case dismissed in California? ›

Remember: CPS can dismiss your case at any time they feel the child is in no real danger or if all agreements, services and requested tasks have been completed. A judge can also dismiss a case if CPS fails to provide sufficient evidence of abuse or neglect.

Can I call the police if my child refuses to go to school? ›

You can call the police if your child refuses to go to school. If they are in a public place, the police can take them back to school. However, if your child is at home, the police can just talk to your child and encourage them to go to school.

What age can a kid stay home alone in MA? ›

Massachusetts doesn't set a specific age at which a child can be left home alone. In Massachusetts, such issues are decided on a case-by-case basis.

At what age does a child need their own room legally in Massachusetts? ›

Generally, children of the opposite sex under the age of eight, and all children of the same sex may be required to share a bedroom. An exception to these rules is that no household member has to share a bedroom with another household member if it would affect his or her mental health.

What is passive neglect? ›

Passive neglect – the failure by a caregiver to provide a person with the necessities of life including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, because of failure to understand the person's needs, lack of awareness of services to help meet needs, or lack of capacity to care for the person.

What makes a parent unfit? ›

The legal definition of an unfit parent is when the parent through their conduct fails to provide proper guidance, care, or support. Also, if there is abuse, neglect, or substance abuse issues, that parent will be deemed unfit.

What is willful neglect? ›

Willful neglect means conscious, intentional failure or reckless indifference to the obligation to comply with the administrative simplification provision violated.

What is psychological neglect? ›

Emotional Neglect, also known as Psychological Neglect, refers to a situation where a parent or caregiver does not provide the basic emotional care, attention and affection that a child needs in order to develop proper emotional well-being.

What is traumatic invalidation? ›

Traumatic invalidation occurs when an individual's environment repeatedly or intensely communicates that the individual's experiences, characteristics, or emotional reactions are unreasonable and/or unacceptable.

What is a neglectful parent? ›

Uninvolved parenting — also called neglectful parenting, which obviously carries more negative connotations — is a style of parenting where parents don't respond to their child's needs or desires beyond the basics of food, clothing, and shelter.

Can police charge you with child neglect? ›

Criminal neglect can result in the responsible adult being placed in jail or prison and the child being removed from the home.

Can you be convicted for child neglect? ›

Adults can be prosecuted if they neglect a child by not giving them enough food, clothing or medical aid. They can be also charged for cruelty if they ill-treat, abandon or expose the child to hazards. If found guilty, the maximum penalty is a 10-year jail term.

Is child neglect a criminal offence? ›

'Wilful' neglect

Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 provides that cruelty to a child must be 'wilful' to be considered a criminal offence.

What is disorderly conduct in PA? ›

In Pennsylvania, disorderly conduct is not defined as any one specific act. Instead, it includes many actions that could be considered unruly. Disorderly conduct charges will typically arise when a person has acted in a way that intentionally or recklessly causes public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm.

What is simple assault in PA? ›

Simple Assault Defined

Pennsylvania's simple assault laws are outlined in the Crimes Code in 18 PA C.S.A. 2701. Under this statute, simple assault is defined as an intentional attempt to cause another person bodily harm. Recklessly causing someone else harm is also considered simple assault.

What is corruption of minors in PA? ›

A Corruption of Minors charge is often issued when an adult is suspected of encouraging, aiding or enticing someone under the age of 18 to commit a crime or violate their parole or court order.

Do you go to jail immediately after trial? ›

With minor misdemeanors, the judge will usually sentence immediately following the defendant's plea: guilty, no contest, or found guilty after the trial. However, when substantial incarceration is on the line, the judge may take a few days or even weeks to impose the exact sentence.

Can you get probation for a 3rd degree felony in PA? ›

Maximum Sentences

18 Pa. C.S.A. §1101 et seq. **For example, if an offender is convicted of a Felony 3rd degree, the judge may not fashion a sentence of probation or incarceration that exceeds 7 years in length or $15,000 in fines.

Can you get probation for a felony 3 in PA? ›

In larger counties such as Allegheny or Philadelphia, having no criminal record or having a minor criminal record can be a probation sentence on a Felony 3.

Can I hit my kid with a belt? ›

Think twice before spanking your child, hitting them with a belt, or pinching them, to name a few, as these acts could leave a mark and raise questions about your disciplinary actions. While corporal punishment is NOT illegal, taking it too far could be illegal.

Is it OK to bite your child back? ›

Don't Bite Your Child Back

It will make the situation much worse, because not only are you now modeling the very aggressive behavior you don't want your child to do, but you're also acting in anger.

What do schools do if they suspect abuse? ›

Dealing with suspected cases of abuse

School staff will listen to and work closely with parents to make sure your child feels safe and protected in the school environment. If you suspect that a child is being abused, you should report it to police or local social services.

Can you go to jail for leaving a child home alone in California? ›

If the court determines that you shouldn't have left your child, child neglect charges will be filed against you. In California, child neglect is a misdemeanor. If found guilty, you could face: Up to a year in jail.

What is PC 245 a 4 felony? ›

Penal Code 245(a)(4) PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to: commit an assault, and. to do so by using force that is likely to produce “great bodily injury.”

What does POS inj DTH mean? ›

1 attorney answer

It probably refers to Penal Code §273a(a), child abuse or neglect under circumstances likely to cause great bodily injury or death.

Can social services take my child away without evidence? ›

Can social services take my child away? Social services will usually only take a child away from their parents if they believe that the child is at risk of harm or neglect in their current circumstances. They are obliged to investigate any complaints or concerns reported to them.

How long do CPS take to reach a decision? ›

In most cases the prosecutor will tell you their decision within 30 working days (about six weeks). If the review is likely to take longer than this, for example if there is a lot of evidence to consider, then we will let you know how long the review is likely to take and keep you updated with our progress.

How long do social services take to investigate? ›

Investigations usually take about six months. The process may take longer depending on the availability of relevant information, or if an investigation is put on hold.

When can police remove a child? ›

A Police Constable has the legal right to remove a child from accommodation or prevent removal, where they have reasonable cause to believe the child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm.

Can I report my child to the police? ›

There are times that you may need to call the police on your child. If your child's behavior has escalated to the point of physical abuse, assault, and destruction of property, or if he is engaging in risky or dangerous behavior outside the home, then getting the policed involved might be the right thing to do.

Is school refusal a disorder? ›

The emotional component consists of severe emotional distress at the time attending school. The behavioral component manifests as school attendance difficulties. School refusal is not classified as a disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM-5].

How do you prove child neglect? ›

Signs of neglect
  1. poor appearance and hygiene. being smelly or dirty. being hungry or not given money for food. ...
  2. health and development problems. anaemia. ...
  3. housing and family issues. living in an unsuitable home environment, such as having no heating. ...
  4. change in behaviour. becoming clingy.

How old can you be to watch your siblings? ›

What age can a child babysit siblings? In general, kids can start babysitting siblings for short periods around age 11 or 12. Start by leaving them for short amounts of time and gradually increase it as they prove themselves trustworthy. Don't leave them alone overnight until your oldest child is at least 16.

Is it illegal to leave a child in the car in Massachusetts? ›

Massachusetts does not have laws making it illegal to leave children unattended inside cars. But, parents and caregivers can still face child endangerment or neglect charges.

Can I share a bedroom with my child? ›

Adults and children should not share rooms.

There is also an exception for minor parents, who may share a bedroom with their child. However, those rules also state that there should never be more than two adults and two infants per bedroom.

What makes a parent unfit in Massachusetts? ›

the parent has a condition that is prolonged and that will prevent him or her from caring for the child; the parent is incarcerated and cannot provide a home for the child; and, there has been a prior pattern of neglect or misconduct, or an assault resulting in serious bodily injury to the child.

What are some examples of neglect? ›

Neglect occurs when a person, either through his/her action or inaction, deprives a vulnerable adult of the care necessary to maintain the vulnerable adult's physical or mental health. Examples include not providing basic items such as food, water, clothing, a safe place to live, medicine, or health care.

How do you tell if a child is neglected? ›

Neglect signs and symptoms
  • Poor growth.
  • Excessive weight with medical complications that are not being adequately addressed.
  • Poor personal cleanliness.
  • Lack of clothing or supplies to meet physical needs.
  • Hoarding or stealing food.
  • Poor record of school attendance.
May 19, 2022

How do you tell if a child is being neglected? ›

Signs of neglect include: Being frequently absent from school. Inappropriate clothing (e.g. shoes too small, clothes are ill-fitted or unsuitable for the weather conditions) Clothes are consistently dirty or smelly.

What are the main signs of neglect? ›

  • appearing consistently dirty and unwashed.
  • being consistently inappropriately dressed for weather conditions.
  • being at risk of injury or harm due to consistent lack of adequate supervision from parents.
  • being consistently hungry, tired, and listless.
  • having unattended health problems and lack of routine medical care.
Jan 19, 2022

What is passive neglect? ›

Passive neglect – the failure by a caregiver to provide a person with the necessities of life including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, because of failure to understand the person's needs, lack of awareness of services to help meet needs, or lack of capacity to care for the person.

What are the 5 signs of emotional abuse? ›

5 Signs of Emotional Abuse
  • They are Hyper-Critical or Judgmental Towards You. ...
  • They Ignore Boundaries or Invade Your Privacy. ...
  • They are Possessive and/or Controlling. ...
  • They are Manipulative. ...
  • They Often Dismiss You and Your Feelings.
May 23, 2017

What is the most common form of child neglect? ›

Physical neglect is by far the most common type of neglect. In most cases, the parent or caregiver is not providing the child with all of the basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. In some cases, young children are left without proper supervision for extended periods of time.

What is emotional neglect? ›

Emotional neglect can be defined as a relationship pattern in which an individual's affectional needs are consistently disregarded, ignored, invalidated, or unappreciated by a significant other. From: Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (Fourth Edition), 2009.

What are 5 possible indications that a child is being neglected? ›

Signs of neglect may include:
  • Always looking dirty.
  • Being left alone or in the care of other young children.
  • Eating more than usual at a meal or saving food for later.
  • Missing a lot of school.
  • Poor weight gain and growth.
  • Doesn't get medical, dental, or mental health care (medical neglect)
Sep 8, 2020

What is an example of psychological abuse? ›

Psychological abuse can include someone regularly: Embarrassing you in public or in front of family, friends, support workers or people you work with. Calling you names. Threatening to harm you, your pets, children, or other people who are important to you.


1. InBrief: The Science of Neglect
(Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University)
2. Interviewing the Child Client: Approaches and Techniques for a Successful Interview
3. Reaching Out: Child abuse, when and how to report.
(Cook Children's Health Care System)
4. Global National: July 27, 2022 | Pope Francis continues Canada trip of "penance" in Quebec City
(Global News)
5. Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems: 5 Forces Impacting Our Lives
6. Ashley McArthur Trial Verdict & Sentencing
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