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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we discuss the removal of a child from a parent based on findings of neglect and answer the following questions:

  • What is the statutory definition of a “neglected minor?”
  • What factors does the court consider in determining a finding of neglect?
  • What constitutes medical neglect?
  • Is subjecting a minor to a violent environment a form of neglect?

Neglect of a minor is a very serious charge. If found guilty of child neglect, the penalties can be substantial, including hefty fines and jail time; and the child is often removed from the parent’s custody. However, neglect can be a very broad term, and it’s up to the court to determine if the defendant’s conduct constitutes neglect. Parents can make bad decisions in stressful situations, but is removing the child from the parent always the right move? Each case must be examined individually and then the findings applied to the previous case law. Hopefully, through this process, the court can make a decision that is in the best interest of the child.

What Is The Statutory Definition Of A “Neglected Minor?”

The statutory definition of a neglected minor exists in the Juvenile Court Act of 1987. It describes neglect in detail, which is summarized below:

  • Any minor under 18 not receiving the proper support, education, or required medical care as recognized under Illinois State Law as necessary for the child’s well-being. This includes food, clothing, and shelter; or
  • Any minor who has been abandoned by their parent, guardian or other person deemed responsible for their health and well-being; or
  • Neglect does not typically extend to cases where a child is left with a relative of the parent or guardian for any length of time, as long as the relative is of sound mind and body; or
  • Any minor under 18 years of age left in an injurious environment; or
  • A newborn found with illegal substances in their system; or
  • A minor under the age of 14 left unsupervised for an unreasonable time without regard for the child’s safety or mental or physical health; or
  • A minor barred from coming home who is not an immediate danger to himself or others.

What Factors Does The Court Consider In Determining A Finding Of Neglect?

When determining whether a child was left without regard for his mental or physical health, safety or welfare, or the time was unreasonable, the courts will consider the following factors:

  • The age of a minor. The younger the minor, the more likely neglect is considered;
  • The number of other minors at the location;
  • If the minor has special needs or required regular medication or medical attention;
  • The duration of time the minor was left unsupervised;
  • The condition of the location where the minor was left unsupervised;
  • Whether it was day or night;
  • The weather conditions, and if the child had adequate protection from the elements;
  • Was the child’s movement restricted through force, such as lock and key?;
  • The parent’s or guardian’s actions while the child was left unsupervised;
  • Whether the child was given a phone number or a way to reach emergency services
  • Whether food and water was provided for the unsupervised child;
  • Whether economic hardship contributed to the parent’s conduct and if it can be found that the parent made a good-faith attempt at supervising the child despite their situation;
  • The age and mental and physical status of the person left to care for the minor;
  •  Anything else that might endanger the child;

What Constitutes Medical Neglect?

We often hear of medical neglect cases that involve a parent refusing to accept medical treatment for their child due to religious beliefs. This doesn’t include non-life-threatening medical decisions, such as getting a child vaccinated or giving them medicine for flu symptoms. For medical neglect to be considered, the situation must involve medical intervention that if withheld would have a significant and nearly guaranteed impact on the minor’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being or may result in their short-term or long-term demise. A perfect example of this is a case that set the precedent for future medical neglect cases. It involved parents refusing a blood transfusion for a child knowing that the child will most certainly die or be mentally impaired for life.

In cases of medical neglect, the state extends the right to take temporary protective custody over a minor to the treating physician, a local law enforcement officer, or a designated employee of DCFS without consent of the parent or guardian. The right is granted if the person taking temporary custody believes that the child is in imminent danger and there is not enough time to apply for a court order.

Is Subjecting A Minor To A Violent Environment A Form Of Neglect?

There are many examples of minors being removed from their parents or guardians due to violence. But what if no harm is directed toward the child in question but another family member or individual living in the home is the target of abuse? Can the court remove all minors from the situation or only those directly affected by the abuse?. In addition to the evidence presented in the case, the court must consider several questions, including:

  • If a minor witnesses abuse aren’t they already sustaining a form of emotional abuse? 
  • How long till that minor is the victim of abuse himself? 
  • What degree of abuse occurred? 
  • Is the behavior happening consistently, or was it a one-time event? 
  • Did other adults in the household allow the abuse to occur?  

The court will have to consider these questions and more when determining if minors living in the presence of regular and consistent violence should also be removed from the parents even though they were not the target of the abuse. When considering a household that has multiple minors but only one is being abused, or a household in which one adult is violent towards another, if the court anticipates a potential problem for the other minors in the future it will very likely order the children be removed.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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