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Illinois Child Neglect and Abandonment Laws

In the criminal justice system, abuse-related charges are taken very seriously; the offenses that involve child abuse are considered especially heinous. There are federal and state laws that help protect children from harm. When these laws are broken, individuals can often face harsh penalties. The laws vary from state to state, but the intent is the same: to ensure that children receive protection from those that harm them physically, psychologically, and emotionally.

Child Neglect in Illinois

The child abuse laws in Illinois include mandatory reporting whenever child abuse or neglect is suspected. These reporting requirements apply to most professionals in education, health care, social work, and law enforcement. Child abuse typically involves some sort of action such as hitting a child, while neglect is typically passive and involves the failure to provide adequate care for a child. When you neglect a child, you ignore their needs and fail to provide basic necessities such as food, shelter, and health care.

Child Abandonment in Illinois

Although they are related, there are differences between child neglect and child abandonment. Both involve ignoring child care duties, but abandonment occurs when a parent physically leaves a child. Illinois has separate charges for this offense.

Illinois Child Neglect and Abandonment Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of laws related to Illinois' child neglect and abandonment laws, including links to important code sections.

Statutes and Elements of the crime

Child Abandonment: 720 ILCS 5/12C-10
Child Abandonment; Probation: 720 ILCS 5/12C-15

A person commits child abandonment when he or she acts without regard for the mental/physical health and safety of the child and knowingly leaves that child (under the age of 13) without supervision for 24 hours or more (supervision is defined as being in the care of a responsible person over the age of 14).

To determine whether the child was left without regard for their mental/physical safety and health, certain factors are considered including:

  • the age of the child;
  • the number of child left at the location;
  • any special needs of the child (mental/physical disabilities);
  • duration of time that the child was left and the time of day;
  • whether food was left for the child; and
  • any other factor that could endanger the health or safety of the particular child.
Penalties and Sentencing
  • In most instances, child neglect is a misdemeanor.
  • Child abandonment is a Class 4 felony.
  • A second or subsequent offense after a prior conviction is a Class 3 felony.
  • A parent may be sentenced to probation for child abandonment.

Possible Defenses

  • Safe surrender
  • Cultural defense
  • Acting within your right to discipline your child

Related Offense

Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor: 720 ILCS 5/12C-30

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Illinois Child Neglect and Abandonment Laws: Related Resources

Find an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney

If you've been accused of child neglect or child abandonment, then you should strongly consider talking to a criminal defense attorney who can help you assess your case. These are serious charges and the repercussions could be life-changing. Find an Illinois attorney near you today with Findlaw's attorney directory.

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