The Crime of Child Neglect

Child neglect is a misdemeanor crime in Maryland. The law prohibits parents, family members, and other adults in the home who have care or responsibility for a child from neglecting the child. Child neglect is defined as:

  • an intentional failure;
  • to provide for the physical needs or mental health of a minor;
  • that creates a substantial risk of harm.

The law explicitly exempts cases where the needs of a minor are not met solely because the person caring for the child hasn't got enough money to pay for everything the child needs.
Read the law: MD Code, Criminal Law § 3-602.1

Under law, health practitioners, police officers, educators, and human service workers have a duty to make an oral and written report of suspected instances of child neglect to the local Department of Social Services. Other persons must make either an oral or written report to the local Department of Social Services when he or she suspects child neglect, unless the person learns of the child neglect through privileged communication.
Read the law: MD Code, Family Law § 5-704

Penalty

A person convicted of child neglect is subject to a prison sentence of up to 5 years and a fine of up to $5,000.

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